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.)

September 23, 2016

Fancy a cuppa?

Anyone who uses Google will have noticed today's doodle is dedicated to the UK's love of tea - or more specifically to the appearance 358 years ago of the first advert for tea.  It was described as "a China drink", which is the phrase Samuel Pepys used a few years later when he first tried the beverage.

Tea, when it first arrived on these shores, was incredibly expensive. Only the richest toffs could afford it, and they kept it locked away in ornate caddies. The lady of the house would keep the caddy key so that the servants couldn't get their filthy mitts on the precious leaves.

So this morning I have five tea/cup related photos for you.  Why don't you brew up a cuppa, sit down, and visit Amy at Love Made My Home to enjoy other people's fives.

This is lovely, isn't it?  I can imagine sipping the cup that cheers out of it - but in Victorian society I'd have been frowned upon - it's  for drinking coffee, and it's called a can, because of its straight sides. Tea was originally drunk from a bowl, Chinese fashion, and so tea cups are more bowl-shaped, even though they have handles now.

Can't brew proper tea without a pot, so how about this lovely specimen?  It's in the Potteries Museum in Stoke on Trent and I would really love something this ornate to make my morning cuppa.

How about a touch of opulence for your tea?  This one wouldn't have been for the China drink either. It dates from the Bronze Age and was found in a round barrow (grave mound) in Cornwall. It's in the British Museum, though technically it belongs to the royals because it was found on Duchy of Cornwall land.

Last week I showed you an extract from Blackpool's comedy carpet. Well this one's just up the coast in Morecambe, and it's in front of a statue of the town's famous son Eric. There are lots of his catch phrases set into the floor around the sculpture, but I think this is my favourite.

Can you guess what language this is?  It's so close to home, and yet a significant proportion of the natives don't even speak it. It's Welsh. Paned o te, Cariad?

September 16, 2016


Welcome to Five on Friday in association with Amy at Love Made My Home. Click on the link at the bottom to see more - when you're done here.
You might know we've been on holiday. Here's five things from somewhere we visited: Blackpool.

The Tower
Blackpool Tower is possibly the most famous of the town's many attractions. It stands at 518 feet (158 metres) high and was inspired by the Eiffel Tower. It opened in 1894 and is apparently the 103rd tallest free standing tower in the world. Except it isn't free standing by my definition. It stands set into the entertainment complex below - circus, ballroom, etc - so I don't think it counts. It's Grade I listed, so whatever you think about it, it's important.

The Lights
Giving the Tower a run for its money in the fame stakes are the annual Illuminations. They are a huge light show that runs along a stretch of coast known as The Golden Mile, but they actually cover nearly six miles. They began in 1879 with the grand total of just eight arc lamps. Promoters called it "artificial sunshine" and attracted in excess of 70,000 visitors.  It wasn't until 1912 that anything approaching the modern show was introduced. Then 10,000 bulbs were hung in garlands along and across the road to commemorate the opening of a new stretch of the Promenade. Today "The Lights" are lit for 66 nights each September and October and attract around three and a half million people.

The Comedy Carpet
One of Blackpool's newer attractions, right next to the Tower, is the Comedy Carpet. It's a lot of words, phrases, catchphrases and jokes that refer to more than 1,000 comedians and comedy actors. None of the scripts are attributed to specific acts, although famous names appear around the edge for you to make up your own mind. It contains more than 160,000 granite letters in many different type faces, embedded into concrete. Some are large enough to read from the top of the Tower, others you just have to wander across and find for yourself.

Not seaside fish and chips! (Black Country Museum)
Fish and chips
You can't go to the seaside without having fish and chips. There must be hundreds of places to buy them in Blackpool, among the newest being the flagship of chip chain Harry Ramsden. (The original Ramsden's flagship in Guiseley, West Yorkshire now belongs to rival chain Wetherby Whaler.)  No-one is really sure where fish and chips started but they've been around since the mid 19th century, thanks to the growth of the railway system that allowed fish to be carried well inland before it rotted. It's been popular ever since, and during World War II it was the only hot food takeaway not to be rationed.

Dodgems on Central Pier
The piers
Many seaside towns have lost a key symbol of their Victorian past - the pier - but Blackpool is lucky enough to still have three. Traditionally the pier was a way to walk out 'into the sea' to take the fresh air away from the town, but these days they tend to be a location for fun fairs, cafes and gypsy palmists.

September 09, 2016


Hello and welcome again to Five on Friday, which is the brainchild of Amy at Love Made My Home. Don't forget to visit her blog to see other Friday Fives when you're done here.

Let me start with an apology. I shall be away from my computer for quite a lot of this week, so I might not get back to comment on your blogs as quickly as I'd like. But I'll do my best. I'm also short on time now, so I've dredged my Flickr stream to find something you might enjoy seeing.

West window by John Hutton
Many years ago I visited Coventry, and my Dad and I went to see the cathedral. (Some years later, but still a long while ago, I ended up living in the city, but that's another story.)

Coventry was devastated during WWII by a German bombardment on the night of 14 November 1940, and its medieval cathedral was almost totally destroyed by incendiary devices. The Allies knew the bombers were coming, but nothing could be done to prevent the attack because the information had been gathered from a message sent in the Enigma code. The British had only just broken the code (Yes, my American friends, in spite of what you've seen at the movies, it was a team of Brits who broke Enigma.) but we couldn't afford to let the Germans know. It was felt that much more useful information might be gleaned from future messages, so Coventry was sacrificed.

Out of the wreckage, many years later, a phoenix was born, in the shape of the new Coventry Cathedral. The new building stands to the side of the remains of the old, forming a symbol of resurrection. (Note - I'm not a christian, but you can also spell that with a capital R, if you're that way inclined.) It incorporates some significant examples of architecture and art.

Graham Sutherland tapestry

This is the extremely famous altar tapestry designed by Graham Sutherland. To give you an idea of its impact, the figure between Christ's feet is human sized. I remember my Dad's comment, that within the work there were some decent pictures trying to get out.I'm not sure I felt quite so unimpressed as he was, but I know what he meant.

Angels detail

At the opposite end of the building is the magnificent window you can see in the top photo, designed by John Hutton. It forms the link between the old and new buildings. You can just make out the old ruins in that photo. You can't see the angels properly though, so I've put a detail in here as well.

This is a rather unusual view of the Jacob Epstein sculpture "St Michael's Victory over the Devil".  The 1958 bronze has come under fire in the past. Epstein sculpted the Devil with distinctly negroid features and the work has been accused of  racism. However, Epstein was Jewish and was the target of a fair amount of racism during his lifetime. I'm not convinced that any slur was intended, but I admit I don't know enough about it to be sure. He was known for challenging accepted ideas and frequently depicted different forms of sexuality in his works. His private life wasn't exactly conventional either. It's possible that his negro Devil was just another way to challenge ingrained thoughts. Whatever, there's no arguing that he was a talented sculptor.

This is the magnificent baptistry window designed by John Piper. This photo doesn't do it justice. It's huge - on a similar scale to everything else in the building - and it really comes into its own when the sun shines. Coventry's an odd cathedral. When you walk into it there's very little light and colour except for the tapestry at the far end. It was designed (by Sir Basil Spence) with curious zig-zag walls so what you see in front of you is a series of concrete folds. However, when you get to the altar and then turn back you find that each of the folds hid a full height stained glass window in similar style to this one. It's stunning.

And finally, this is a sculpture called The Plumb Line and the City. It's by Clark Fitz-Gerald and symbolises god's way of testing the city to see if it's 'straight and true'. I was delighted after posting this photo to Flickr to receive a message from the artist's son asking for a copy of the picture. Praise indeed!

September 02, 2016

Five at random

Here we are back at Five on Friday after the summer break. Don't forget when you've read this post to go to visit Amy at Love Made My Home and see what others have for you.

This week we have five random objects from Derby Museum and Art Gallery.  In date order:

Prehistoric points from Creswell Crags caves in Derbyshire.
1. Leaf point, probably a spear head,made from worked flint and possibly 35-38,000 years old.
2. Another flint, possibly a hafted knife blade. A type of point found only at Creswell.
3. Scraper/burin. A tool for scraping and piercing bone and hide. Around 14-15,000 years old.
4. Mammoth ivory spear tip around 12,500 years old.
5.Very early arrowhead, 14-15,000 years old.

Two glass beads and a Thor's hammer, forming part of a necklace found in the grave of a viking at Repton in Derbyshire.

Medal issued to supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the campaign to establish him on the British throne. Known as the Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart was believed by his family and supporters to be the rightful king of England. A year long campaign - the Jacobite Rebellion - failed to secure the throne for him and he fled to France to live out the remainder of his life.

Elephant figurine in Derby porcelain made approximately 1830 at the Nottingham Road factory.

Penguin family dating from 1930s - 40s and made at the Denby factory.