Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Fitzrovia Chapel (1)

Posted: August 18, 2017 in History, London, UK

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.

Southend Pier (1)

Posted: August 10, 2017 in Essex, History, UK
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The first pier at Southend was a wooden construction built in 1830. But by the middle of the century the increased tourist numbers had begun to take their toll and in 1887 it was decided to replace it with an iron pier. Opened in 1889, extended in 1897 with an upper deck was added in 1907, followed by a further extension in 1927. In 1959 a fire destroyed the Pavilion located at the shore end of the pier trapping over 500 people on the seaward side who had to be rescued by boat. In 1976 fire destroyed much of the pierhead and the following year buildings at the shore end of the pier were damaged by another fire. It was a dark time for the pier as in the following year the pier’s electric railway was closed. In 1980 the council announced that the pier was to close but reversed this decision following a local protest. In 1983 a grant was given to the pier as a historic building which allowed repairs be made and these were completed in 1986 and included the provision of a new diesel train service from the shoreside to the pierhead. However within a couple of months, a boat had crashed into the pier severing the new pierhead from the rest, in the process destroying the lifeboat station and it was not until 1989 that the pier fully reopened. Further renovations to the pierhead were carried out in 2000 creating a new sundeck and building a new lifeboat station. The pier’s fiery history has continued. In 2005 a fire destroyed some buildings at the pierhead and a new pavilion and railway station have been constructed since to replace the ones destroyed.

1 1/4 miles from shore to head

Pier-head from the shore

Lifeboat station

The bell at the end of the pier

The bell . Cast in whitechapel in 1929

Shrewsbury Castle


It has been suggested that an Anglo-Saxon fortification stood on this site prior to the arrival of the Normans. Roger de Montgomery built a timber castle here around 1070 which was eventually replaced by a stone building. It was besieged and fell to King Stephen 1138 and was occupied by Llewellyn ap Iorweth, Prince of Wales for a period in 1215. The castle was rebuilt and strengthened around 1300 by Edward I and the buildings that remain date from this period. It seems to have gone out of use as a fortress and eventually in the reign of Elizabeth I, custody was given to the town. It was captured during the Civil War by Parliamentary forces (1645) but was returned to Crown ownership again in 1660. In 1663 the castle was given to Sir Francis Newport and it remained in private hands until 1924, when the Shropshire Horticultural Society purchased the site and presented it to the town. The Hall building was used as the Council chamber until 1981. In 1985 it reopened as a museum dedicated to the history of Shropshire’s military regiments. In 1992, the museum was damaged by a terrorist bomb, which resulted in it being closed for three years.

Walls of Shrewsbury Castle

Hall building, Shrewsbury Castle

Sir William Heygate heading along the Pier towards Pier-head station

The original wooden pier in Southend was built in 1830 and by 1851 it had acquired a horse-drawn tramway taking people from the promenade to the pierhead. The current pier was built in 1897 and was designed with a two track electric railway to replace the horse-drawn trams on the 1 1/4 mile journey. The original rolling stock was replaced in 1949 with stock similar to that running on the London Underground.

Southend Pier Train in October 1975 (By Dave Carson [CC BY 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)

By 1978 however, the electric railway had become too expensive to run due to its high maintenance cost and it was closed down. The Railway was reopened in 1986 using two diesel trains purposely built for the railway.

Sir William Heygate arriving into Pier-head station

Sir William Heygate in Pier-head station

Shore Station. The second engine Sir John Betjamen can be seen at the end of the unoccupied platform

Sir William Heygate in shore station

Sir William Heygate heading along the Pier towards Pier-head station



Rowley’s House


William Rowley, a Draper by trade, came from the area around Bridgenorth. His family, however, had been recorded as merchants in Shrewsbury as early as 1252. It is not clear at what point William moved to Shrewsbury, but he certainly had interests in the town and was named the Burgess in 1594. His business ventures were successful as records show that he employed his brother as his London agent.

The date of the original timber framed house that is known today as Rowley’s house is unclear. One argument is that it was actually built by his business partner, Richard Cherwill, whilst others date it to the period after Rowley owned this site.  The first record of Rowley owning the land in the town comes in 1605 when he inherited a plot of land from his now deceased partner. By 1612 he had purchased further land from the Cherwill family and in 1614 he purchased land from the Bugle Inn. In 1616, Rowley set about extending the timber framed house with a brick mansion which became known as Rowley’s Mansion. This was the first such house in Shrewsbury.

Rowley’s brick extension 1616-8

In addition to drapery, Rowley also owned a large brewhouse (Richard Cherwill had also been in the brewing industry and so this may have been something he took over from his partner following Cherwill’s death). He became a major brewer and in 1635 Sir William Bereton described it as ‘a vast great brewhouse’. Rowley became a leading person in the town serving as town bailiff from 1628-9 and as Alderman from 1638.

When he died in 1645, the house passed to his brother, Roger and in 1670 to John Hill, husband of Roger’s daughter Priscilla. Following his death in 1680 the house passed to his son, also John, who was a notable person in Shrewsbury serving on the town council and as mayor from 1688-9. Nearby John Hill Street was named after him. When John jr died in 1731 the house passed to Dr Thomas Adams, rector of nearby St Chad’s, who was married to Hill’s daughter. He lived in the house until he left Shrewsbury in 1755 and it is recorded that Dr Samuel Johnson visited on at least one occasion. Little is known about the history of the house after this period, though there are notes that from the early 19th century it had begun to decay. In 1930 many of the mediaeval buildings in this area of the town were demolished, but Rowley’s house was purchased by the corporation, refurbished and opened as the Roman Museum in 1938. In the early 1980s, it underwent another refurbishment in order to become a more general museum about the history of the town. In 2013, the decision was taken to move the museum to a new site in the old music Hall building on the Market Square. Rowley’s House Museum closed in September 2013 and is now used as University Centre Shrewsbury, part of the University of Chester.

Lest We Forget.
I heard a story on the Tv yesterday about a quartermaster who left his regiment the day before the battle began to bring up supplies from the rear. He returned on the evening of the first day and was unable to locate his men. Eventually, he found his way to a command post and asked an officer where his unit was to be found. The reply he received was ‘It no longer exists’. Almost the entire unit had been killed on the first morning of the battle.

Stephen Liddell

For the last three years or so, I have been post occasional extracts from my WW1 concise history book Lest We Forget, published by Endeavour Press of London.

July 31st marks the centennial of yet another of the landmark actions of the First World War, namely the dreadful Third Battle of Passchendaele.

Passchendaele is another of one of the epic battles that shook the western front between the British and Allied soldiers against the Germans. It all took place on the low ridges to the south and east of Ypres, in the Belgian region of Flanders between July and November 1917.

British High Command hoped to take the vital railway junctions at Rosslare, only 5 miles away but it was an objective that would go unmet until 1918. Though the Battle of Passchendaele is a distinct event in itself, it was just part of the wider and endless conflict in…

View original post 1,826 more words

Some more views of Shrewsbury Cathedral

Chancel and Choir 1886-7

Chancel and Choir 1886-7


St Winifred Window (1992). Note the welsh symbols and the sword which was how she was martyred

Believed to be a 14th part of the Shrine of St Winifred, whose bones had been brought to Shrewsbury in 12th century from Wales

The font which actually the inverted base of a Roman column!

Outside wall of old Abbey Church



The War Memorial stands in Quarry Park not far from St Chad’s church. It was designed by George Hubbard and was unveiled in 1923 to commemorate the dead of World War 1. It was later re-commemorated to include those who fell in World War II. It is built in Portland Stone and the mosaic on the floor is made up of the county arms and the badges of local regiments. The statue of St Michael is in bronze and is by AG Wyon.

Old dockyard buildings

Lower Gun Casement. Upnor Castle

Upnor Castle



Upnor Castle was constructed between 1559-67 to defend the Chatham Dockyard and Reach which was at the time the primary port for the British Navy. In June 1667, the Dutch launched a surprise raid on Chatham. The entered the reach and burned and captured a number of ships. The defensive positions such as Upnor were severely hampered by a lack of ordinance supplies and thus were unable to prevent the progress of the Dutch fleet up the river. They were resupplied overnight and when the Dutch returned the next day intent on burning the dockyard, Upnor and the other positions were successful in driving them off before they reached their target. However, the raid had shown that any raid needed to be stopped before it got that close to the dockyard and so a series of larger forts were built nearer the Thames. Upnor became a gunpowder and cannon store for ships visiting the Dockyard. It remained a military establishment until 1945 when it passed to the Dept of Monuments and is now open to the Public and managed by English Heritage.

Medway Tugs

The Medway is a major leisure location

Motor launches at the Royal Engineers Station on the Medway

The Royal Engineers Station on the Medway

Rochester Cathedral with the Castle beyond

Shrewsbury Abbey

Shrewsbury Abbey was founded in 1083 by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury and a senior knight at the court of William the Conqueror. There was probably an existing wooden church here, it is mentioned in the Doomsday Survey and may have dated back to Anglo-Saxon times. This church was replaced by a large stone building complete with the necessary outbuildings of a Benedictine Monastery.

The tomb of Roger De Montgomery, founder of the Abbey d 1094

Over the years it was an important site of parliament and the monastery came to be one of the major Benedictine houses in the UK. This all came to an end in 1540 when it was closed by order of Henry VIII. The western end of the Nave was given to the parish of Holy Cross and the remainder of the church, along with many monastic buildings were demolished. The church continued as a parish church and was redesigned in 1886-7.

View from West Door

West Door

Norman arches

Norman arches

The old monastery site was further destroyed when the current London – Shrewsbury road was built past its doors in 1836.

Part of the Infirmary and cloister of the old Abbey, now separated from the church by a road


In more recent years the Abbey has become famous as the home of the fictitious Brother Cadfael, a sleuthing monk of Shrewsbury. Many visitors now come to visit the Abbey because of this connection. One thing I had not realised was that some of the book characters were real people – for example, Prior Robert Pennant, Cadfael’s nemesis in the books was actually a prior of Shrewsbury and was actually responsible for acquiring the bones of St Winifred (as in the book – A morbid taste for bones).

A modern stained glass window celebrating the Benedictine heritage of Shrewsbury Abbey