29 July 2013

Cley (No More) Next the Sea

Cley Mill, a tower windmill, was built about 1819. It consists of five storeys, the sails originally powering two pairs of stones, increased to three pairs by 1876.

The mill was converted to residential use, as a holiday home, in 1921, when the machinery was removed and the sails and cap immobilised. The brake and crown wheels were cut in half and used as door arches, their morticed teeth still very much in evidence.

The sails were replaced in 1960, and a new fantail was fitted in 1987. The mill has been run as a bed and breakfast since 1983, the granary and outhouses providing additional accommodation.

When built, the mill was next to the village's quay, but the port silted up in the nineteenth century. The beach is a 15 minute walk away. Even so, the mill flooded to a depth of eight feet when north Norfolk was inundated by the great sea flood of 1953.

Amidst the marshes is an Allan-Williams Turret, a pre-fabricated steel defence installation of WWII. This housed a crew of two and a light machine gun, and could be rotated through 360°. The design was not favoured by the army, and only 199 were built, most upon airfields.

21 July 2013

Taking the Chiltern Hundreds

Watlington lies close to the ancient Icknield Way, and was likely in settlement from the sixth century. The little town was famous in the nineteenth century for the large number of its inns. Methodist George Wilkinson alone bought up and closed six, in a religiously-inspired effort to limit human enjoyment.

The Watlington and Princes Risborough Railway opened in 1872, but closed to passengers in 1957. The Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway preserves that section of the line between those two places, which ran until 1989 to carry cement.

Historical note: MPs are not allowed to resign from the House of Commons. Persons appointed to Crown offices of profit may not be MPs. Thus, a legal fiction provides a get-out, in that MPs wishing to resign are appointed to such a post, for as little as part of a day. The two offices currently employed for this purpose are the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham, and the same of the Manor of Northstead.

19 July 2013

Anything That Goes Car Show

Hosted annually by the Whitchurch Motor Club, and held at the Blue Bell Inn, Tushingham, near Whitchurch, the Anything That Goes Car Show this year attracted over 120 vehicles.

Naturally, given the nature of the club, a member of the Motor Sports Association, very many of the cars are campaigned, and there were, thus, a good number of Ford Escorts on show (top).

Seen far less often is the Simca 1000 Rallye (second photo) and the Hillman Avenger Tiger Mk2 of 1972, in Sundance yellow, a real Ford Escort Mexico killer.

Most brutal was a MG Metro 6R4 (six cylinders, rally car, four wheel drive), introduced in 1984. The works car produced an immense 410 bhp. Group B rally cars were banned at the end of 1986. The 6R4 moved into rally-cross, turbo-charged to a mad 600 to 700 bhp.

A great variety of non-racing machinery was also on display, including an early Ford Mustang (above) and a Ford Lincoln Mercury Monterey Marquis, a car that somehow manages to be a block longer than its name.

14 July 2013

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share,

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the Poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:-
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault
If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.

Yet e'en these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
E'en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, --

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

'There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

'Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

'One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

'The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,-
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.'

The Epitaph

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy marked him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
(There they alike in trembling hope repose),
The bosom of his Father and his God.

Thomas Gray, 1751, Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard

13 July 2013

The Sport of Queens

The grandstand at Ascot, which accommodates 30,000 when full, was built between 2004 and 2006 to a design by Populous, an architectural practice that specialises in large sports venues. 1,600 feet long, the elegant steel, concrete and glass building has a shallow-arched parabolic form, with six tiers of corporate boxes to one side and a semi-open 'atrium' to the other.

The £185 million redevelopment was very heavily geared to corporate entertaining, and criticised by some for failing to provide raised viewing for everyday punters, the course itself being elevated above the lawns that lie in front of the grandstand. Accordingly, a  further £10 million was spent in late 2006 to re-profile the external concrete terraces, not entirely successfully.

12 July 2013

A Load of Old Horlicks

Horlicks, makers of the eponymous malted barley and milk drink, was founded in Chicago in 1873 by brothers William and James Horlick, originally from Ruardean, Gloucestershire. In 1890 James returned to the UK and commenced importation of the product. A UK factory, above, was built in Slough between 1906 and 1908. In 1945, the American company was acquired by its British cousin, itself bought in 1969 by the Beecham Group, now a part of GlaxoSmithKline.

02 July 2013

Manchester - Mad For It

Although Manchester has its roots in Roman times, when a fort was established near the junction of the River Irwell and the River Medlock - above, from Oxford Street - it owes its dominant feel to swift urbanisation in the early 19th century. A textile manufacturing boom led to the building of a great many factories that saw Manchester become the world's first industrial city, which status was granted in 1853.

The factories, small and large, were built of a dark red brick, often ornamented with terra-cotta detailing. Many of these have been cleared, or converted into loft apartments, but the seemier side of the city is just around the corner. Soap Street, above, is in the heart of the Northern Quarter.

Close to the Arndale Centre, of the 1970s, are a number of commercial premises that, whilst they might look like something straight out of a Dickensian portrait of the industrial city, are very much in business today, such as the office furniture store on Withy Grove, and a comic emporium that could be of New York.

Friedrich Engels lived in Manchester for two years from 1842, writing The Condition of the Working-Class in England. Vibrant and in parts exceedingly affluent, the city streets are yet home to many who have nowhere else to go. Engels would assuredly recognise as of Manchester scenes such as that under the railway arches near Charles Street, below.

Manchester's layout is largely dictated by its railways, rivers and canals. The Rochdale Canal runs dark under later buildings carried upon stilts, hard by the Piccadilly Basin. Numerous police notices read: "It is an offence for any person to engage in public acts of lewd, obscene or sexual behaviour. Anyone found committing any such act could be arrested and prosecuted." Manchester - all human life is here.

01 July 2013

Completely Jiggered

Brownhills, near Cannock Chase in the West Midlands, quickly grew in the mid-19th century from a village of just 300 people, to a town of over 13,000, due to the coal mining industry. The last pit closed in the 1950s, and the town has never recovered. Its mining heritage is celebrated by a stainless steel sculpture, 46 feet high, by John McKenna, erected in 2006 and known as Jigger, after Jack 'Jigger' Taylor, killed in 1951 when the roof of Walsall Wood pit collapsed.