Dad with Cousins?

April 19, 2014

Well I think it is Dad. The little lad in the front of this trio has a look of my father as a boy.


But all I have is a negative, so I can’t be certain.

The location, I am fairly sure, is At Great Aunt mercy’s house which was in Malthouse Road in Crawley and I imagine the girl and boy behind are two of her children. I’d guess at them being her youngest two. Ethel Ruth Edwards (known as Ruth) was born in 1911 and John Edwards was born in 1914. My dad was born in 1919.

The picture is full of the period. The clothes, of course, but also things like the galvanised wash bowl hanging on the fence and the galvanised dustbin. I know Mercy and her husband Ernest kept hens. Maybe the cage like structure next to the wash bowl was their night quarters – or perhaps they kept cage birds.

Ruth Edwards married Bert Barrett in 1931. They had three children.

John Edwards had a wife called Gladys and I think they had three children.

Edmonson Tickets

April 18, 2014

My life in tickets

Last year, when we visited the Isle of Wight Steam railway it was a wonderful day and a grand experience. But I did comment on one thing that I regrette3d and that was that the railway issued modern tickets. I commented that it probably made book keeping easier since the computer, somewhere, kept all records. But I fell, that for me, one part of the heritage experience was missed.

At the Bluebell Railway, last month, that little snip of memory was rekindled properly as the Bluebell issue good old fashioned Edmonson tickets.


Yes that looks the part. It’s a proper railway ticket with serial number. A clerk should record the first and last serial number of the day and then compare it with takings in the till. He should be able to tally his results and show he hasn’t been fiddling the books.

When Thomas Edmonson evolved this system, back in the 1840s, it was a huge step forward in the accounting process. Before that, all tickets had been individually written. But we can sympathise with the Isle of Wight Line for it still involves much adding up and checking.

The thing that I remember most about the issuing of these tickets was a double clunk noise as the ticket was pushed both ways into the date stamping machine. That noise is just so evocative of the start of a train journey and what a pleasure it was to hear it at Sheffield Park Station. The date appears on the reverse of the ticket.


This date allows any ticket inspector to see that the ticket is valid for the journey you are making.

The Edmonson ticket had other advantages. The card was robust enough for the clipping process.

A triangular notch was removed from this card as I left the booking hall and went on to the platform. In a sense, this doesn’t matter on the Bluebell, for the ticket, which looks like a standard return from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead, is in fact a day rover. You can travel back and forth as many times as you like. But again, the clipping was a part of the experience. If the ticket had been a ‘real’ return ticket that triangular notch could tell a ticket inspector I had already made the journey and was riding a train fraudulently.

And again, the clipping had a sound – one I associate with railway travel.

It’s good to bring back those memories.

Because we took the absolutely magical brake van ride at Horsted Keynes, we got another ticket. This one is not an Edmonson – it was more like a bus ticket.


The date has not been entered but it was the same date – 23rd March 2014.

Of course, both tickets have been added to my collection. Both help to keep memories alive for me.

A Family Postcard from Firle

April 17, 2014

Firle is a charming village a few miles east of Lewes in Sussex where a couple of great aunts of mine ended up living. My great aunts were young women in that Edwardian era, when the postcard was the equivalent of today’s text message. I was fortunate in that my gran was the hoarder and keeper, so I have the cards which Granny received. This one came from her sister Eliza (my great aunt) and was sent in 1907. It shows the village shop in Firle.


It is quite possible that Eliza knew the people on the card, for she lived just down the road behind the three standing men. Before we look at the message, let’s look at my ‘recent’ photo of the same scene.#image004

Frighteningly, what I call recent was actually in 2002 which is 14 years ago but wonderfully, the shop was still the shop and remarkably unchanged. That was my car of the time, parked where the horse and cart had been in the old image.

And now let’s look at the back of the card.


Granny’s rather grand address was, indeed, quite grand. But she’d have been a junior maid in service at the time, aged just 15. Eliza, the card sender, on the other hand, was a married woman with children. And it was just like her to make the message awkward for the postman to read. But with modern technology we can turn it round easily.


Hmm! The message hardly seems top secret.

D E (Dear Ethel) I hope you are well as it leaves us about the same. I have sent you the Post Office this time. I will let you know when we go in new house. Goodbye from your sister E (Eliza) XXXXXXXXX.

Well, a lovely image of the old shop, and a message to try to keep a young sister, in service, happy.

Mud Pies

April 16, 2014

Back in my early childhood money was pretty tight and post war austerity was in full swing. Enjoying life meant making use of whatever was available. We lived in a place where the subsoil was thick, oolery gloopery clay. Now that clay was a perfect plaything for a small boy. With that clay you could be a bit of a potter. My parents always said I was making mud pies. And here I am, back in 1952, mixing some clay with water in an old jam jar.


No doubt I had plans to mould a little dish out of the clay – not unlike early pots that were moulded into shape by hand. But as a mere child of pre-school age I had no access to adequate firing techniques. All I could do was leave my items in the sun to dry out a bit. And at that point they crumbled away, returning to the clay from which they had been made.

But I persisted, enjoying the process of producing that smooth slippery clay – and no doubt getting filthy in the process.

And that would have meant more clothes for mum to hand-wash, for luxuries like washing machines were well in the future back then.

False Colours

April 15, 2014

This proves I am not really a railway nerd. If I was then I’d object to the image I’m about to show. But do you know? I don’t mind it at all.

Let’s look at the photo.


This was taken on a recent visit to the Bluebell Railway which chanced to be a gala day with four different trains running. This one was being hauled by two different former Great Western Railway locos. The second one was in good old GWR livery. The front one is the one in wrong colours. It’s pretending to be a London Underground engine and has been painted in the old London Underground livery and given a suitable number for that task of L150.

In the 1960s London Underground did purchase some former GWR engines. They were useful for shunting trains in sheds where people work. The normal power source of conductor rails is dangerous in those circumstances. But the engines the Underground purchased were not like this one.

However, when the Underground celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013 this loco was chosen to operate some special trains on the Underground system. Some call it a work of fiction, for such a loco never worked ‘real’ trains on these lines. But then, one could say, this one has now.

I don’t like the colour as much as the GWR green, but I see no harm in a loco getting a paint job for a special occasion. And then it might as well keep that paint until it needs re-doing.

Any Old Iron?

April 14, 2014

This is about coastal junk – it might be deemed litter on a big scale. Users of the sea and the coastal zone have great belief, or so it seems, in the cleansing power of the oceans. They leave all sorts for the waves to wash over and slowly wear, rot, or rust away.

Some of us find this junk can be strangely attractive and it can provide us with food for thought. Take these girders that are in Bembridge Harbour on the Isle of Wight.


Now these won’t be most people’s idea of ‘pretty’ but they fascinate me. Just why was this collection of steel joists dumped here. Somebody paid a considerable sum of money for them, yet here they are, doing nothing except slowly rusting as the salty water washes over them.

As seaside places go, Bembridge Harbour is very sheltered. It faces more or less east and is almost an inland lake.


There won’t be much in the way of heavy seas to wear away these girders. Perhaps somebody planned a new jetty, got the materials and then never did the job. The harbour is a spot for pleasure boats of all sorts.


But however peculiar it may seem, I find those girders attractive.


Bob and Baron

April 13, 2014

It is interesting to see that the Wadworth’s Brewery web site says this.

Monty and Max are the latest in a long line of Shire horses which, apart from a brief interruption, have served Wadworth for over 125 years.

I moved to the Devizes area in 1970 and that must have been in that brief interruption when horses didn’t pull drays around town.

I well remember that in 1974, the brewery decided to use horses for deliveries within town. They claimed it was for commercial reasons – horses just stopped and didn’t consume fuel whilst not moving. Diesel lorries did. And this was the time of the oil crisis, when the petroleum exporting countries quadrupled the price of oil. For a while it seemed that a return to horse power might be the only way for all of us. I’m sure, though, that the publicity of using attractive animals helped sway the decision to re-introduce the brewery beasts.

Back in 1974, the first two horses to take to the Devizes streets were Bob and Baron. I snapped this photo of them in town.


Back then, this sight was a novelty. These days it is a part of the Devizes scene, much loved by most of us but motorists do get annoyed sometimes at the slow speed.

Wadworth use shire horses and as you’d expect, they are always turned out to perfection.

The photo, by chance, has some cars of the period. I note two of the old BMC 1100 cars – Austin or Morris. That would be what I drove at the time.

The Anderton Boat Lift

April 12, 2014

My life in tickets

It was around Easter 1975(April 4th to be precise) that we – a group of canal boat hirers – made a trip on the Anderton Boat Lift.

Of course, I have the ticket.


As the ticket invites us to ‘PTO’ we’d better do it.


This massive structure was designed to lift boats up from the River Weaver to the Trent and Mersey Canal, some 50 feet above it. Of course, it lowered boats safely down as well. The lift is sited near Northwich in Cheshire.

Looking at the current web site, I see there have been three incarnations of the lift with the most recent in 2001. What we travelled on was essentially the 1908 version. I have taken this information from the lift’s web site at .

1908 Structure

• The addition of the machinery deck brought the overall height to approximately 80ft

• The addition of the A-Frames to support the machinery deck brought the width at the bottom of the Lift to 75ft

• Each tank was  counterbalanced by 252 tonnes of cast iron counterweights attached by wire ropes

• There were 36 stacks of counterweights on each side of the Lift, each weighing 7 tonnes There were a total of 72 geared pulley wheels on the Lift

• The largest of the geared pulley wheels which take the lifting and safety ropes weigh 3.5 tonnes. There are 8 of these on each side, a total of 16

• There are a further 20 geared pulley wheels taking 2 lifting ropes each, and 36 geared pulley wheels with one lifting rope each

• The shafts bearing the pulleys are 8 inches in diameter

• The pulley pedestals weigh between 193 and 466lbs each

You’ll get the idea. It was massive and still is. The boat – up to 70 feet long is lifted in a tank of water. It’s a mammoth lift.

We had the benefit of fine weather on the day we used it – and here we see our boat entering the lift. I’m going to guess it was Brian on the tiller.


The boat we had was not the full 70 feet long. It was probably about 50. It was called Halton Castle and we had hired it from a company at Preston Brook.


Our boat is on the way up and another is now awaiting its turn.

It’s a magnificent experience. Take the chance to use it if you can. It isn’t all that expensive to take a trip on the lift combined with a river ride.

The local railway viaduct

April 11, 2014

The railway came late to my parish. It didn’t open until 1900. Often, the most recently built lines were amongst the first to close. Our local line, though, is now the main line between London and south west England. Dr Beeching, and his political masters did close the local station, but the line carries quite a heavy traffic these days.


But take a look at that viaduct. It is made of brick – millions of them. The viaduct proved a boon for the local brickworks. The local economy was boosted considerably by the building.


Building the line provided all sorts of employment – there was plenty of earth to move requiring navvies and many other jobs – bricklaying and also carpentry and more technical jobs. If local men could get a decent wage working on the line it meant wages had to go up for other jobs. And of course, more money in the pockets of workers means more money gets spent locally. The added wealth filters through.

There may have been another local advantage, albeit it may not have seemed advantageous at the time. Travelling navvies moved into the village. Some stayed. These incomers broadened the gene pool which will have helped to maintain a healthy population.

One of the things I like about railways is the social history – the way the new development impinged on the lives of ordinary people – even those who never travelled by train. It isn’t all about old steam locos, although I do love them too.


Yarmouth Mill

April 10, 2014

In my family we all seem to love the Isle of Wight. One family member has a caravan there. Others take holidays and then there are day trips. Quite a regular for my wife and I has been to take the ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth and then walk across the island to Freshwater Bay. It isn’t all that far and is an easy walk. Quite a bit of it is along the route of the old Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport Railway which keeps close by the estuary of the Yar River. There are wading birds to see and odd bits of railway relic here and there, but the most impressive structure, just as you start on the old railway is Yarmouth Mill.


This is (or was) a tide mill. Once upon a time the incoming or outgoing tide was used to turn the machinery. A large pond could store high tide water for use as the tide fell.

It is a listed building so we’ll let the listing citation tell us about it.

Former tide mill and miller’s house, now house. Mid C18 altered in C19. Mainly red brick in English bond with some grey headers and bands of grey headers between 1st and 2nd floors and above 2nd floor.

Slate roof with end brick chimneystacks. 3 storeys and attics. 6 windows. All windows to front have cambered heads. 1st floor has 2 sashes, otherwise mainly casements. 2 simple doorcases (the left hand side was formerly the mill, the right hand side the house). 2 S-shaped iron ties and deep plinth. North front has 5 S-shaped iron ties and 16-pane sash. South front has 5 S-shaped iron tiles. 3 C19 sashes with verticals only and horns and 3 C20 sashes.

Ground floor is of coursed stone rubble. 1 storey C18 addition to right of red brick with tiled roof hipped to one side. C20 window and 1 S-shaped iron tie. Rear elevation has irregular fenestration with mainly C19 casements in C18 surrounds.

Now I like these rather industrial buildings although some might think it out of place in rural West Wight. But of course, this was and is a working and living community. Moving water was an ideal power source for milling.

And this close up of side and back shows all those S shaped ties.


It’s a lovely island and a lovely walk. The mill building, which I think is now in use as holiday lets?? Is a little bit of icing on what is already a wonderful cake.

Oh, you may have noticed a variation in weather between the two photos. One dates from 2013 and the other from 2011.


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