22 October 2013

The Grand Old Man's Trees

Although Hawarden Castle, Flintshire, the country home of quadruple nineteenth century prime minister William Ewart Gladstone, is not open to the public, some of the surrounding parkland is.

This is accessed via a wicket in a town centre set of gates that, to the casual observer, would appear not to provide ingress. The park is home to some fine specimen trees.

Into his eighties, part of Gladstone's exercise regime came in the form of walking the park, about which he would carry a heavy axe. If a tree could not be retained, it was Gladstone who felled it.

Gladstone: "We cut down that we may improve. We remove rottenness that we may restore health by letting in air and light. As a good Liberal, you ought to understand that."

20 October 2013

Beckmeter Petrol Pump

This Beckmeter Multi Mix pump was in rather poor condition when acquired. Although the wheels were beyond repair, the panels have been stripped, the missing parts of the top panel built up with car body filler and shaped to the correct form, and the whole painted. New rubbers and glass have been inserted, and the petrol and oil sight glasses replaced with stippled polycarbonate discs, such that the pump, wired into an external lighting circuit, can be illuminated in the dark.

17 October 2013

Aston Hall, Oswestry

Aston Hall was built by Robert Mylne, between 1789 and 1793, and may have been designed by James Wyatt, the architect of Fonthill Abbey. It is in Greek Revival style, and of sandstone ashlar. The Ionic pilasters appear to bow outwards.

The house originally had a cupola and octagonal lantern. Built as a country pile, Aston has been a hospital and a school, is now once more a private residence, set in a beautiful landscaped park that boasts a considerable lake. Even the dog kennels are wonderfully grand.

Iron Safari

Across the road from Aston Hall is the British Ironwork Centre, the renamed Black Country Metalworks. There's a very warm welcome here, customer service at its very best.

The site is home to a growing safari park of metal animal sculptures. The firm is currently engaged in making, for misdirectionist Uri Geller, a giant gorilla made from spoons. Should have been a one trick pony.

11 October 2013

Fiat Lux

Trade-marked BAT and featuring a bat with outstretched wings, this roadworks lantern was made in Beierfeld, in the German Democratic Republic, after 1948. BAT-branded lanterns were originally produced by Friedrich Stübgen, founded in 1843 in Erfurt, between 1936 and May 1945, when the Russians dismantled the factory and shipped it to Ukraine. The East Germans reused the brand. This 14 inch high paraffin (kerosene) lamp was once a ubiquitous sight at British roadworks, and likely the property of Shropshire, or possibly Surrey, County Council, as SCC is welded into the metal.

06 October 2013

Moulton - Bicycle Porn

Alex Moulton’s paternal great-grandfather, Stephen Moulton, founded in 1848, in Bradford on Avon, a company to exploit Goodyear’s rubber vulcanisation process, which he'd brought to England. This expanded to become Spencer Moulton, bought by Avon Rubber in 1955. A mechanical engineer, Alex worked for the erstwhile family firm, developing suspension systems. These were fitted to, amongst others, the iconic BMC (British Motor Corporation) Mini.

Taking a cue from the small wheels of this, and adding frame suspension, Moulton developed a bicycle with 16 inch wheels, which debuted in 1962. Raleigh, who had been approached as potential manufacturer, was uninterested, so Moulton built the bike himself in Bradford on Avon, later outsourcing to BMC in Kirby. In 1965 Raleigh developed the RSW-16 (Raleigh Small Wheels) as a competitor which, although much inferior, marginalised Moulton, who sold to Raleigh in 1967.

The last Raleigh Moulton was made in 1974. Moulton bought back his patents, and in 1983 launched the revolutionary AM Spaceframe. This was succeeded from 1992 by the APB (All Purpose Bicycle), built under licence by Pashley, in Stratford upon Avon, until 2005, when it was itself replaced by the TSR.

The pictured APB R18 has a separable spaceframe, Italmanubri Europa drop handlebars, and 20-inch wheels built on Pashley hubs and shod with Schwalbe Marathon Slicks. Go is by a Stronglight chainset with 56T and 44T rings, SRAM nine speed cassette, and Shimano Tiagra Derailleur mechanism, the 18 gears controlled via Shimano Dura-Ace bar end shifters. Stop is by Tektro brakes, governed by Dia-Compe levers.