December 30, 2016


2017 will be Hull's turn as UK City of Culture. It's a well deserved title, because Hull has a lot of public art as well as significant gallery collections. Currently there's a flight of moth sculptures scattered around the city to commemorate aviator Amy Johnson, who was born in the city.  For more about Amy click here.

This was the first one we found on our recent trip to Hull. (It's Mr Anorak's home town, of course.) It's called Horizon's Path and was created by artist Sam Tasker. The blue bit represents the freedom of the skies, the maroon bit signifies women's equality, and the white line represents Amy's flight path to Australia.

This is called Engineer, and it was painted by Hannah van Green.  It's a mark of respect for Amy's mechanical skills.

This is World Moth by an artist called Pinky.  It's inspired by the fact that Amy flew half way round the world, and represents some of the landscapes she must have passed along the way.

And here we have Air Mail by David Graham. It charts Amy's flight path and each of the stamps and post marks represents a time and place where she touched down. It also shows various ways that post has taken to the skies over the years - including by pigeon!

And here's Fly High, also by Pinky. It's supposed to represent Amy's achievements, both as a flyer and in her personal life, overcoming attitudes to women at the time.

The exhibition continues until March 2017.

December 23, 2016


We're short of Frankincense and myrrh, but just for you this Christmas here's five pieces of archaeological gold, for my last Five on Friday until next year. (Not sure if anyone else is doing one this week, but if they are you'll find the link here.)

Number 1 is a torc (neck ornament) from the Snettisham hoard. It's one ofmore than 150 pieces of Iron Age gold found in the 1950s in a field near the Norfolk seaside town of Snettisham,. It's not clear where the items came from originally, but it's been suggested that they were part of the royal Iceni treasure. (Queen Boadicea's tribe.)

Here's the Rillaton Cup. Found in a Bronze Age round barrow in Cornwall. Excavated in 1837 and containing a centrally-placed inhumation in a stone cist measuring 2m by almost 1m. Human remains were found along with grave goods including the Rillaton Gold Cup, a bronze dagger, beads, pottery, glass and other items. The squashed cup above is from Ringlemere in Kent. Found in 2001 by metal detectorists.

This is a lunula, a moon-shaped neck decoration dating from the Neolithic onwards. Mostly found in Ireland, but they have been discovered across Europe. They were probably signs of status, altough no-one is exactly sure. They appear to have been phased out and replaced by torcs in the Bronze Age,
The Mold cape, from near Mold in North Wales. Found in 1833 in a Bronze Age burial. The cape is clearly ceremonial since wearing it would make it impossible to move the arms. It is extremely narrow and almost certainly worn by a woman. 

This is the magnificent belt buckle found in the best preserved Anglo-Saxon boat burial at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. The site was excavated in 1939 and is one of the richest graves dating from the period (early 7th century). The grave is possibly that of Rædwald, the ruler of the East Angles, and there are many parallels with the poem Beowulf. 

Merry Christmas one and all!

December 16, 2016


Hello again for the recently returned Five on Friday  Don't forget to visit Amy at Love Made My Home to see other fives.

This week I have five wheels for you - or at least, things like wheels. Yes, I know I've done wheels before, but I love them!

English millstone
Let's start with a mill wheel, or more properly a mill stone. This one's at Brindley's Mill at Leek in Staffordshire. Mill stones come in pairs - a stationary stone at the bottom and a rotating, grinding stone on top. They also come in two kinds. This one, (above) made of several bits put together, is known as a French stone.  English stones are carved in one piece. (see left)

This one's from a different kind of mill. It's all that remains of the old King's Mill in Castle Donington, Leicestershire. It's wlocally rumoured to have been the place where paper for banknotes was made - hence the King's Mill - but in fact it was used to grind flint and plaster for the pottery industry, which were then shipped to the Potteries in Stoke along the nearby River Trent.

This isn't a wheel at all - because it never turned. In fact it's a support for one of the walls at Caudwell's Mill (bit of a theme going on here) at Rowsley in Derbyshire. Very close to Chatsworth. It's a grade II* listed, steam-powered, roller flour mill.

This isn't a wheel either. It's an ancient symbol of eternity, a spiral, carved onto a very old upright stone in Bakewell Church yard in Derbyshire. Not sure if it's an obelisk or the base of a cross. But it's an impressive piece of carving.

Now this is a lot of wheels that all work together. This is "the bombe", the machine invented by Alan Turing to break the German Enigma code during WWII. Well actually, it's a replica of it at the National Computing Museum in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. Bletchley was, of course, the home of the GCHQ codebreakers.  You can see it working there. What it does (did) is carry out all the different potential combinations of letters by spinning all the dials you can see in the photo. It's a very early form of computer.

December 09, 2016

Plus ça change

Last weekend we went away to the seaside and passed through the village I grew up in. There have been several changes: the shop my mother worked in is now a house; the entire village is bypassed rather than carrying holiday-bound traffic through its centre; the petrol station has gone and replaced by houses.  And there were other significant developments.

This was my junior school. The door you can see on the left was the headmaster's house, and the long range to the right was our hall. The gable end at the right was the reception classroom. It was an old Victorian pile with high walls and windows that were so far up the walls we needed a long pole to open and close them. No staring outside and daydreaming!  These days it would be considered bad for education and children wouldn't be expected to progress under such conditions. But we loved it - and our teachers. We had small classes (there were only 96 pupils altogether) and our teachers cared about us and our learning.  These days its the area youth centre.

This was Wilson's farm. That field used to be full of cows, and twice a day they were guided off to the left and into a pasture on the opposite side of the road. Traffic stopped to let them wander across. Often it coincided with our walk to or from school. These days it's the site of a sheltered housing estate. They seem to have demolished the farmhouse, which is a shame. But it'll be a great place for people to live out their days.

Here's a close up of the wall in the last photo. I remember it as being higher. I an also remember Farmer Wilson shouting at us because a small gang of us were slowly dismantling it while we stood around chatting about nothing in particular. It wasn't vandalism, as such - we didn't mean any harm - it was just idle lack of thought. It's close to being a dry stone wall. There's actually nothing holding the wall together except careful positioning of the stones. The capstones are cemented, but nothing else is. Repairing it is a time-consuming, skilled job. Sorry Farmer Wilson!

This smart-looking B&B used to be a pig farm!  The pigs were free-range, in the field behind the wall on the right, and they were very friendly. You could scratch their backs and they would snort and wag their  curly little tails. Nobody was squeamish about bacon. It was just how life was.

Of course, we went for fish and chips from the chippy where I used to buy "six penn'orth of chips and scraps, please" whenever I could afford it.
I don't go back as far as 1946, but I do remember that range. It must have been second hand when it was installed, because it was an Art Deco sunray design in green and yellow, probably made of bakelite or something similar. It was definitely plastic. It was good to see the clock still there. The fish and chips were still as good as ever too!

This post has been for Five on Friday, hosted by Amy at Love Made My Home.

November 11, 2016


You're bound to have seen them, but you've probably not taken too much notice of them. They can be found all over most towns and many villages. They are advertisements for trades and businesses long gone. They're known as ghost signs - and they offer a glimpse into the past.

Let's start with this one from the corner of Market Place in Cirencester. With a bit of effort you can see it says Scotland House Frank Jones The Popular Clothier
There's also at least one '& Co' and something that looks like it ends with ...nson  and a VERY faint extra 'ouse', which I assume was an earlier rendering of House.

Here's a fine example from the harbourside in Ipswich. Fison's were well known as an agricultural chemicals company and they started life in this Suffolk town.

This one is near the River Trent by Sawley, Nottinghamshire. It's a bit of a pleasure spot these days and from what you can decipher on this wall that's been the case for a while. Thomas someone (I can't make out a second name) offered boats for hire, accommodation, teas and mineral waters.

One of my favourites. It could only be in one town. Wholesale jet merchants were a feature of Whitby, where the rare black gemstone appears in the local rocks. You'll find this one close by the swing bridge.

And here's another beauty from round the back of the East Riding Museum in Hull. It's a lovely slice of the town's history. Among the words you can just make out are "Hull River Craft Owners"  "Steam Tug Owners" and there's a wool merchant in there somewhere.

This post was for Five on Friday run by Amy at Love Made My Home. Sadly, Amy has 'stuff' to deal with and Five has been suspended temporarily.

November 04, 2016

St Albans

St Alban was a Romano-British citizen living in the town of Verulamium during the third century. At that time Christianity came under threat from Rome and anyone practising the religion risked persecution. A priest called Amphibalus was to be arrested, but Alban offered himself in the priest's place and was sentenced to be beheaded.

At the place of execution, a hill near Verulamium, Alban prayed to god to provide him with a drink, and a fountain sprang from beneath his feet. The execution place later became the site of an abbey, later the cathedral of St Alban. The former Roman town was renamed after him.

And that's where we went last weekend. Here's five things we found in the cathedral.

The only surviving example in Britain of a medieval watching loft. It was here that priests, monks and townsfolk kept watch over the shrine of St Alban. It dates from around 1400 and is richly carved.

Victorian architect Lord Grimthorpe made various changes to the abbey church, including reinstating the original pitch of the nave roof and replacing the crumbling west front. He also replaced an original perpendicular window in the north transept with a rose window of his own design.
The window contains modern glass, and was unveiled in 1989 by Diana, Princess of Wales.

Replica of the Wallington Clock. The original was designed and built by Richard of Wallington who was Abbot from 1327 to 1336. In addition to striking the hours the clock showed the positions of the sun, moon and stars, and could even predict lunar eclipses.

The original parish poor box still stands in the cathedral. It dates from around 1650.

This wooden figure used to stand above the poor box, begging for alms.

This post was for Five on Friday, organised by Amy at Love Made My Home.

October 28, 2016


Seventeen years ago I lost my Dad. He was fine in the morning. He and mum were planning an afternoon out. He dropped her off at the hairdresser's, went to pick up his pension from the post office, then went home for a shower. He didn't quite make it.
Here's five photos of him.

1943. Dad joined the navy to avoid being sent down the mines. He was not quite 18.

 A couple of years later and he's stationed in Scarborough, where he meets a WRNS communications operator who was to become his wife, my mum. He got his taste for a pipe while he was in the navy.

1956. Chelmsford. St John Ambulance first aid demonstration. He eventually became a Serving Brother of the Order of St John after years of public service. Just like his dad, who was a railway first aid officer for many years.

Mid 1960s. Before joining the navy Dad was training as a market gardener. He put his skills to good use in our back yard; working the land like a professional to ensure we had a plentiful supply of fresh veg all year round. Still puffing on that pipe!

July 1999. As far as I know this was the last photo ever taken of him. He always loved gardening and he was very pleased with the solar-powered fountain he'd been given.

Sorry if you think this is a sad Five on Friday. It isn't. My Dad was a wonderful man who I loved very much, and I have nothing but happy memories of him.

Now hop over to Any at Love Made My Home to see what everyone else has gathered this week.

PS. Please bear with me if it takes a couple of days to get back to your blogs.  We're having some 'us' time.

October 21, 2016

Five from Leeds

Last weekend went went to Leeds to see a concert by the magnificent Bad Company, fronted by the voice of rock, Paul Rodgers. Of course I thought about Amy and Love Made My Home while I was there and took some photos.
The magnificent Kirkgate Market stands on the site of an earlier market. Originally it was the home of Leeds vicarage but a fruit, vegetable and cattle market was begun there. In 1857 the city erected a covered market but it was swept away in 1904 to make way for the spectacular building you see today. If anyone happens to be in the area, the wool shop on the right offers very good value!

While you're in the market you might spot this, because Kirkgate is where Mr Marks and Mr Spencer first got together to launch their now internationally-regarded chain of stores. This isn't just any market..........

Just down the road you'll find the magnificent Corn Exchange, now a collection of little independent shops and a gallery space, but once the place where merchants gathered to agree the price of grain. The domed roof was designed to allow in as much as possible of the clean, northern light, because it gave a true image of the goods being traded. Built in 1861 and in use until the 1950s.

It wasn't just pure grain that was traded. Local (ish) brewer John Smith needed malt to produce his fine ales and so had an office in the Leeds Corn Exchange where experts could assess and buy what was required.

If you look very carefully at the photo of the Corn Exchange roof you will see a coat of arms, and if you have extremely good eyesight you might be able to make out a pair of owls that flank it. There are owls all over the city. This one is outside the town hall. (And I admit I took the picture on an earlier trip to Leeds a couple of years ago.)

Now please drop by at Amy's blog to see what other fives have been featured there this week.

October 14, 2016

What's in a name? Pargeter

Most people are aware that surnames are often derived from an ancestor's job. Coopers made barrels, fletchers made arrows, bowyers made bows, smiths worked with iron, etc. But what do you think of when you hear the name Pargeter?
Green man, Clare, Suffolk. Modern example.
Pargeting is decorative plaster work found mostly on the outside of buildings, and it is skilled work, hence the recognition in the surname. Although it is found throughout the UK pargeting mainly occurs in East Anglia. The first recorded use of the word was as early as 1237 when it was included in a description of work carried out on internal walls.

Langley Chapel, Shropshire. 17th century. 
Pargeting ranges from simple incisions to elaborate swags and floral sprays, to geometric designs, to symbolic features such as the Green Man, to figurative work and even full pastoral scenes. It can be either cut into a layer of plaster that has already been applied to a wall, or built up into low reliefs by the addition of some form of fibrous material that acts as a binder.  

The Ancient House, Clare, Suffolk

It mainly features on timber buildings and forms a weatherproof outer skin. Although plaster is not waterproof the application of pargeting prevented draughts and hence made homes warmer.
In the late 19th century there was a revival of the fashion and, in typical Victorian style, pre-moulded motifs could be bought to apply to smooth plaster base coats. The effect is much crisper than traditional work and frequently much simpler. Single motifs in large, blank areas, rather than overall patterning, denote later work.

Simple, early example. Also in Clare, Suffolk.

Internally, the work is often called stucco, and the fashion for such designs was known as early as Roman times. So whenever classical design enjoys a revival it tends to bring decorative plasterwork back with it.  The fine example below is from the 18th century Music Room in Lancaster. 

This has been a post for Five on Friday to join in with Amy at Love Made My Home.
Apologies to my regular readers. I've got a busy weekend coming up and I might not get back to visit your posts for a couple of days.

October 07, 2016


Here we are again on Friday so it's time to join in with Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday. Don't forget to visit to read other people's fives when you're done here.

October 11
Yes, I drew that.
If you haven't tried any of this year's blackberry crop you'd better hurry - you only have until Tuesday. By tradition, the Devil flies over them and spits on the fruit on the night of Michaelmas. He took a dislike to the plant and the day after falling from the sky (it's a holy day, after all) and landing in brambles. Anyone who has picked blackberries knows just how sharp the bramble bush can be. Hence Old Nick's anger and his annual attack on them.  Of course, you might also know that Michaelmas is celebrated on September 29, but back in 1752 Britain converted from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar and 'lost' 11 days in the process. (Read more here.)
October 11 is therefore 'old Michaelmas', but the Prince of Darkness is a bit set in his ways!

While you're out gathering, see if you can find some apples. They have all kinds of superstitions associated with them, many to do with divining who a young girl might marry. (Peel off the skin in one piece, throw it over your shoulder, then see what letter it makes. Don't get too excited if you are currently seeing someone called Steve or Simon!  Or extract the pips, give them all names and put them on the fire. Any that 'spit' are likely future husbands, but if they fizzle they're no-hopers.)  On the other hand, if you have any warts you can charm them away by cutting the apple in half, rubbing the cut sides on your wart, then put the halves back together, tie with string and bury it. As it rots away, so will your wart.

Falling leaves
If you're in need of some good luck you might also keep an eye out for falling leaves. If you can catch one before it hits the ground it is supposed to be very lucky, and some versions of the lore suggest you can make a wish. But be careful what you wish for - it might come true!

Something else you might spot at this time of year is a robin. They're friendly birds, and somehow they seem to be more common as the seasons turn colder. If you see one say hello to it, and it should bring you good luck. Just don't let it get indoors. It's extremely bad luck for any wild bird to be in your house.

A couple of useful old saws for this time of year concern the weather.
A rhyming couplet you might remember: When ditches and ponds offend the nose, watch out for rain and stormy blows.
And some warnings of a harsh winter to come: a large crop of acorns; autumn leaves clinging to trees; and thick skins on your onions!

September 30, 2016


Here we are again on Friday and it's time to join in with Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday. Don't forget to visit when you're done here.

Last weekend we found a delightful place called Middleton Hall near Tamworth in Staffordshire. It's a (partly) Tudor (partly older, partly younger) house that's been restored as an educational base and craft centre. The site is managed by volunteers and I have to say that they do a wonderful job. As well as the various parts of the house, they are restoring the old gardens and orchard, the moat, the outbuildings and the surrounding parkland.

For today's purposes we are visiting the kitchen. It's in the Tudor part, but not displayed as a Tudor kitchen.

I loved this. I'm not sure of the date,but I'd guess at Edwardian. Just look at that description: "Entirely new"; "Daring Design"; "satisfaction guaranteed". Three exclamation marks!!! The sure sign of a diseased mind, according to Terry Pratchett.

How about this?  Early 20th century. In fact I saw something very similar only a couple of weeks ago being marketed by Kilner and I might just have bought it if it weren't for the hefty price tag. (A balloon whip is much cheaper and just as effective, if more tiring.) Have you ever made your own butter?  It's very easy. Just whip cream until it 'breaks'. You might have to squeeze it a bit to get the whey out. Add a small amount of salt and spread on toast. Better than anything you can buy.

Something else you could have bought last week, except the new ones don't have the same patina somehow. You can always tell an original because it will have the words "Church Gresley" on the bottom. The company that makes them - Mason Cash - was founded there in 1800 but that pottery no longer exists. It's now part of the Liverpool-based Rayware Group which, incidentally, also owns Kilner these days. The thing is, I use original Mason Cash Church Gresley mixing bowls myself. One of them was inherited from my grandmother.

I found this fascinating, not least because those stands are intended for recipe books and that was what I expected to find on it. But this is a collector's guide to kitchen equipment, which explains the prices on it. I couldn't find a date on it so I have no idea what such things would be worth today.  I want that bee-shaped silver honey pot though. Not sure what I'd do with a grape hod.

Which brings us to this, slightly cheating, photo. It wasn't in the kitchen, it was in one of the living chambers in the Tudor section of the house. I very much doubt its authenticity. That coffee pot looks distinctly 'distressed' and besides they didn't have coffee in Tudor times. I suspect the little jug belongs to some sort of Tudor revival period, possibly as recently as the 1970s. The jug and plate might be real. (Though they wouldn't leave genuine Tudor items out like that where they could be easily pinched by unscrupulous folk. Victorian, maybe.)