Archive for August, 2017

I knew about the removal of railings during the war. My Grandmothers house had a wall which still contained the bases where the railings had been sawn off. But I had not heard about the use of old stretchers post war as a replacement. What an excellent example of recycling.

Stephen Liddell

Famously many of the iron and steel railings in the U.K. were removed and melted down to help the war effort in WW2.  Whether a large city park or a private residence, chances are if there was a traditional style railing or gate then it would have been melted down and recycled into things like Spitfires, guns, ships or tanks.

These old iron railings were very expensive to replace and both money and metal were scarce commodities in the 1940s and 50s.  However, life moved on and people needed new fencing, particularly in the social housing estates in East and South London that were sprouting from the ashes to house the homeless and refugees.

As it happened, there just happened to be a ready to hand and free replacement, ARP stretchers.  These stretchers were originally made so that Air Raid Protection officers could carry injured people during bombing attacks in…

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Turbulent waters

Posted: August 30, 2017 in Landscape, Natural History
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On the way back from Southend on the Jacob Marley, I became fascinated with the water being ejected from the boat.

 

John H Amos on its pontoon

John H Amos

A steam paddle tug built on the Clyde for the Tees Conservancy. Its main function was towing barges but it also had a licence for 144 passengers. In 1959 the boat and its crew were arrested when it was found to be towing barges containing illicit alcohol as part of a smuggling ring. It was withdrawn in 1967 and presented to the local council. Between 1971 and 1976 it was docked at Stockton and was being restored as part of a youth experience programme funded by the UK government. However in 1976 funding was withdrawn and the project folded. The council decided to scrap the tug. It was purchased by the Medway Maritime Museum and eventually became berthed in a dry dock at Chatham Historic Dockyard, However, when the Dockyard came into possession of HMS Ocelot, a Chatham built Submarine, the John H Amos had to be moved to another berth where unfortunately it sunk. It was later raised using a crane and now sits on a pontoon awaiting funds for restoration.

Medway Queen

Medway Queen

Built in 1923, this paddle steamer carried passengers between Strood, Chatham, Southend and Herne Bay. In WWII she was used as a minesweeper in the Dover Flotilla and was credited with rescuing around 7000 men during the evacuations at Dunkirk. After the war, she returned to civilian ferry duties until 1963, when she was withdrawn from service. She moved to the Isle of Wight where she was used as a floating restaurant and night club.  After a number of years, she sank at her mooring on the River Medina and was raised and brought back to the Medway on a pontoon. Restoration work was completed in 2013 and she is now moored at Gillingham.

The masts of the SS Richard Montgomery

SS Richard Montgomery

The Richard Montgomery was an American Liberty boat wrecked on the Nore sands at the mouth of the Medway in 1944. Her cargo was 1400 tonnes of high explosives, which it was deemed too dangerous to try and salvage. Much debate has ensued and continues to rage, about the effect of any potential explosion on the surrounding area. These range from creating a tsunami which would drown the estuarine towns such as Sheerness and Southend to little or no noticeable effect. The official line is that after 70 plus years underwater it is unlikely that the explosives are still in a viable state and that the explosive risk is very low. Nether the less the area around the wreck remains a prohibited area.

Van 132, known as the Cavell Van was built in 1919 as a luggage van to run on passenger services on the Chatham and South-Eastern Railway. Within a few weeks of service, it was selected to convey the body of Edith Cavell, a nurse who was working in Brussels at the outbreak of World War I. When the Germans captured Brussels Cavell and a few colleagues were allowed to remain. She became involved in the underground resistance and played an important part in the escape network for British servicemen trapped in Belgium. She was arrested in August 1915 and tried by a German military court. She and 4 others were executed by firing squad on October 12th. In 1919 it was decided that her body should be brought back to the UK and buried in Norwich Cathedral and van 132 played its part by carrying her coffin from Dover to Victoria on 13th-14th May and the newspapers reported that every station along the route was packed with people wanting to pay their respects.

Van 132 was used again on the 4th July for the repatriation of Captain Charles Fryatt, who was master of a merchant ship, who in 1915 was ordered to stop by a German U-Boat. Fryatt refused and attempted to ram the U-boat, which just managed to dive in time. He was captured a year later whilst trying to evacuate refugees from Holland. In July 1916 he was tried for piracy and executed by firing squad. This caused general condemnation not only from the allied nations but also from many neutral countries. His coffin was conveyed across the Channel to Dover and thence by train to Charing Cross on route to Dovercourt in Essex where he was reburied.

Van 132 was to be used again in November 1920 when it was used to carry the body of the ‘unknown warrior’. An unidentified body had been chosen and the coffin bearing the inscription ‘A British Warrior who fell in the Great War of 1914-1918’ was conveyed from Boulogne to Dover, where it was placed into van 132 for the journey to Victoria. The next day it was taken to Westminster Abbey for the burial service in a new memorial to remember all those who had fallen during the war.

 

Van 132 is on permanent display at the Kent and East Sussex Railway

Fitzrovia Chapel (2)

Posted: August 25, 2017 in London, UK
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I do love marble and here are some photographs of some of the great variety of types of marble found within the Fitzrovia Chapel.

 

Named Norweigan, this locomotive arrived at KESR from Oslo in 1971. It was built in Trollhattan in 1919 and first saw service in the SE of the country. From there it transferred to the Nordland line, 60 miles north of Trondheim, where it served as the power unit for a snow plough. On withdrawal, it was purchased and brought to the UK. In 1984 it was purchased by the Norweigan Locomotive trust as one of only 3 surviving examples of this class and was renamed Norweigan.

 

Red Hands

Posted: August 23, 2017 in Art, History
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Fascinating. Thinking of the hand art we did as children it seems some things don’t change

Through My Lens

Australia has a rich Aboriginal heritage, a small part of which is showcased in the Red Hands Cave located in the Blue Mountains National Park. I took a soul-enriching 2 hour walk through the rain forest to reach the cave, which is more of a hollow in the rock face. The hand art is thought to be between 500 and 1600 years old. Standing there felt surreal and peculiar, seeing the hand prints that belonged to individuals that lived hundreds of years before me, in a world that was very different to the one I know. What I would give to be able to travel back in time!

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Bodiam Castle

Posted: August 22, 2017 in History, Medieval History, Sussex, UK
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Bodiam Castle was built in 1385 as a protection against French invasion during the 100 years war. It is unusual in design as it has no central keep. Despite its initial purpose, Bodiam managed to survive without being involved in any military action. It was surrendered by the Lewkner family in 1483 when threatened with siege by forces supporting the House of York. It was returned to them following the accession of Henry VII. During the civil war, it was sold by Lord Thanet, a Royalist, to pay the fines levied by Parliment and they took the decision to dismantle some of the defences. The castle was restored by its owners during the 19th and 20th century and in 1925 it was given to the National Trust and opened to the public.

 

 

RSPB Cliffe Pools

A bright sunny morning found Keith and me at the RSPB Cliffe Pools reserve in North Kent. August can be a quiet time for birds and so it seemed it would be on the way down to the reserve from West Court farm. Still, it is also a time when plenty of other things can be seen. Our first stop was the radar pools but apart from a large group of Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits, there was little to be seen, bird-wise. However the vegetation around the pools was alive with butterflies, mostly small whites and green veined whites, together with a single Painted Lady, a few Red Admirals and Holly Blues and a number of Migrant Hawker dragonflies; Common Blue damselfly and Common Darters.

Red Admiral

Painted Lady

Holly Blue

 

Migrant Hawker (f)

Common Blue damselfly

Common Darter

 

Perhaps our best find was at the small pond under the radar tower, where we found three emerald damselflies. There are four species of emerald damselflies found in North Kent and I didn’t immediately recognise this one. Later research, confirmed them to be the Willow Emerald. A recent colonist to south-east England, this damselfly was first recorded in East Anglia in 2007, it has now spread to Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and the north coast of Kent. This is my first record of this species.

Willow Emerald damselfly. Photo by Keith

Moving on there were no signs of Black-winged Stilts on the pools near the Black Barn. Black-winged Stilt is a rare visitor to the UK, but two pairs bred at Cliffe this year raising at least seven young. It seems that one family has apparently moved off across the Thames to Essex, but the other has remained at Cliffe. But they were not visible during our visit. Walking down to the sea wall, a flash of colour alerted us to a rather well camouflaged moth resting against the stone wall. This Red Underwing, mottled grey on top, was magnificently camouflaged until it flew revealing its brightly coloured underwing.

Red Underwing. Photo by Andy Rogers (https://www.flickr.com/photos/cobaltfish/)

Spot the Moth. Red Underwing blending into stone wall

As we left the estuary and turned back inland we were alerted to the calls of Greenshank and searching for these lead us to find a Eurasian Spoonbill and a number of other wading birds including Common Redshank and Whimbrel. We had just decided to move on from this pool when the clouds darkened and there was thunder and lightning followed by heavy rain. We sought shelter under the vegetation for 10 minutes but it did not seem like this was a passing shower and so we decided to make our way smartly back to the waiting car and a quick retreat.

A good day with my first record of willow emerald damselfly being the highlight.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Eurasian Spoonbill [sp] (Platalea leucorodia)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Whimbrel [sp] (Numenius phaeopus)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)

Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Green-veined White [sp] (Artogeia napi)
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Red Underwing Moth (Catocala Nupta)

Western Willow Emerald (Lestes viridis)
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

Fitzrovia Chapel (1)

Posted: August 18, 2017 in History, London, UK
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The Fitzrovia chapel, as it is known today, is from the outside an unassuming brick building in the middle of a modern office and residential development in the centre of London. It unassuming character ends though once you enter the door. The chapel is all that remains of the Middlesex Hospital which stood on the site from 1757 until its demolition in 2006. One of the conditions of the redevelopment was that the chapel was maintained and restored and this involved supporting it whilst the hospital was demolished around it including the lower floors of the building in which it stood.

It is in the greatest of High Victorian styles and was completed by the Father and Son architects John and Frank Loughborough Pearson, the later taking over after his father had died in 1897. There are many oddities about this chapel. It was never consecrated as a church and so although it is now available for hire, it is not licensed for religious ceremonies such as baptisms or weddings.

The chapel re-opened in 2015 following restoration paid for by the developers of the site and is now run by a charitable trust. It is usually open on a Wednesday from 11 am to 4 pm if there is no booking.