Old crocks

July 26, 2014

I think we have looked at the veteran car rally before on this blog (click here).

It’s nothing like that this time. This is about crockery from the past, although still with us.


This was some of mother-in-law’s crockery and it is resting on one of her table cloths. It dates from the 1950s

I’ll let my wife say a bit here – really she was talking about 1950s shops in her then home town of Worcester.

At Lawley’s, the china shop, a new tea service was chosen. The design was Conway Spot, by Ridgeway, with a green band on the white china, spotted with white polka dots and edged with a fine gold line. We bought a few items at a time, as we could afford them, rather in the way that balls of knitting wool were put in a lay-by, to be purchased as needed.

When I first started dating my girlfriend I was in for a bit of a shock in terms of life style. In my household we never had matching crockery. We all had our own favourite plates, knives, forks and spoons although I, as the youngest, had to make do with what others didn’t want. Some items we just didn’t have. So, for example, in that Conway Spot set shown there is what I discovered was called a slop basin – for tipping tea dregs into before a second cup was poured. We never had one of them. But we did have large dinner plates, tea plates and cups and saucers. Mum used to bake cakes and these might have been put on a decorative plate – we had some. The glass item in the photo was a sugar bowl and we certainly had one of them for back in the 50s we all laced our tea with spoonsful of sugar.

Oddly, I don’t remember a table cloth in my home. At a very early stage I remember dad bought Formica and impact adhesive and covered the table which then became a wipe clean affair. Actually, early photos do show a table cloth sometimes.

By the way, my wife, always more dedicated than me put together a lovely book about her childhood and I have nabbed photo and paragraph about it from that.


Great Granny’s early home

July 25, 2014

Great Granny Hall was born in St Just. Her father was a tin miner out in these far west parts of Cornwall and he chanced to be in St Just, with his wife, in 1848 when Great Granny was born. Her name then was Grace Williams.

We are always cautious when talking about the homes of miners. It would be easy to say they were still in St Just in 1851 but that would imply we knew they’d been there in the intervening three years since Grace was born. We’d better just say that they were in St Just at the time of the 1851 census.

The family lived on Chapel Street and it is the first house listed. So we reckon it was this one.


That’s the somewhat yellow looking dwelling between the white car and the white van.

There is clearly a chapel at the end of the street. What isn’t clear is that immediately to the left of what we think was where Grace lived there is another former chapel.

Let’s look up the street the other way.


The other chapel is the tall building just to the right of the red Landrover.

It’s hard, now, to imagine streets like this with the sound of miners’ boots walking along and no doubt with the chatter of children. But these cottages were the homes of miners and that was what most of the working men did back in 1851.

The waggoners

July 24, 2014

Camp for us, when we were children meant all sorts of things. The word ‘camp’ defined, for us, a location and a way of life. It was a life of simplicity, far from the madding crowd. It was a life style, set against a backdrop of the South Downs that we all enjoyed.

And here are four of the family enjoying a rest on a waggon on our home farm.


The year is 1958 when my dad first tried colour.

My mother is on the left and on the right we have my sister, me and my brother. I’d have been 9 at the time. My brother was 11 and my sister would have been close on 14. Dad is not in the picture. He was pressing the shutter on the camera.

The waggon has clearly brought harvest to the barn and I dare say it was all pitchforked through that high door. Back then an awful lot of crop handling was done manually.

The barn is clearly flint built. Those flints must have taken some finding but they produce a beautiful building. The roof material has probably replaced thatch at some date.

The barn and yard made a wonderful playground for me and my brother. There was much to enjoy and a waggon, with imagination, was whatever we wanted it to be.

Happy memories!


More Cornish Wildlife

July 23, 2014

Yes, we recently spent some time in Cornwall and we have already seen the fabulous silver studded blue butterflies on this site.

We camped between St Agnes and Perranporth. It was very close to the wild and rugged cliffs of the North Cornwall coast. This is an area of much variety. The underlying rock changes from place to place and with it the plants that grow and the animals that live there. But added to this there are the old spoil tips of the mining industry. Mostly these have reverted to nature but the change in minerals and soil adds even more variety to plant and animal life.

On an area actually at the perimeter of the little Perranporth air field we spotted this moth having already watched the sun go down over the sea.


This was quite a large and hairy moth and I had no idea what it was. Moths are singularly hard to identify because of the sheer number of them. Eventually I decided it might be a canary shouldered thorn but I was by no means 100% certain so I buzzed off an email, with photo, to the Cornwall Moth Group.

The reply was near instant.

Thank you for the picture and info.
I don’t think it’s a Canary-shouldered Thorn, as all the Thorns (including Canary-shouldered) have scalloped edges to the wings and they don’t have those furry legs.
I believe it’s a freshly-emerged female Drinker Moth (possibly still drying its wings which would explain the “butterfly” position).

So three cheers for the Cornwall Moth Group who have identified this moth for me. It’s a drinker moth – it’s female and has probably only just emerged.

I find it really worthwhile asking people on the web. The world is a wonderfully helpful place. This Cornish Moth Group asked for specific information which I supplied and I sent the picture as well.

Obviously by suggesting what it may be, albeit wrongly, I gave an indication that I had tried to identify it. I really do think you should try to identify a species first.

Hopefully, that’s one more moth I’ll identify myself if ever I see one again.


Abraham Rathbone Fisher

July 23, 2014

It proved wonderful for genealogy to have a great grandfather with the middle name of Rathbone. We knew the Fisher family came from the Gawsworth area of Cheshire and when we found Rathbone graves in the churchyard there we recorded them because of that middle name of Rathbone. Later research proved that Rathbones were direct ancestors.

Abraham was born in 1871 in Ardwick which is now a part of Manchester. His Gawsworth born father had become a policeman in Manchester. In 1871 he was a Constable but he rose through the ranks as young Abraham grew up and by 1891 he was an Inspector.

Abraham was a postman by 1891 and in 1893 he married Mary Ann (always known as Polly) Robinson. They were able to acquire a ‘sell everything’ shop in Macclesfield. It was right next door to the Flowerpot Inn.

This was probably a bad thing, for Abraham was fond of drink and, we gather, he spent far too much time and money at The Flowerpot.

A photo found in a book about old Macclesfield seems appropriate.


Polly, in the white apron stands outside their home and shop. Abraham leans on the nearer window of The Flowerpot. As the caption says, pub and cottages have all gone now and a bigger pub has been built.

A good piece of luck to come across this picture. Even better that an aunt was able to positively identify the people.


July 22, 2014

Normally I prefer to have reasonably OK photos on this blog. Today’s photos are less than perfect, but they represent something I am so pleased to have seen.

When we visited Botallack recently I had no idea that choughs might be on the agenda. I knew they were on the opposite coast, around The Lizard and that these Cornish choughs were the only ones in England.

Now hang on a mo. I’ve jumped off the deep end without explaining my main characters. Choughs are birds. They are members of the crow family and like quite a lot of that family they are largely black. They have bright red beaks and legs and they like the wild coastlands of the west. I was careful to say the Cornwall choughs are the only ones in England for I believe there are colonies in Wales and other areas of the UK.

Anyway, on arrival at Botallack we were greeted by a notice which entreated us not to disturb the choughs.

Almost immediately afterwards we came across a group of people with scopes and binoculars. Clearly they were birders.

‘Are there choughs about today?’ I asked them.

‘Yes!’ came the reply. ‘There are the two adults with six youngsters. We saw them fly by just a few minutes ago’.

So of course, apart from looking at mine engines we kept our eyes peeled for these delightful birds.

And sure enough, before we reached the engine houses, one flew over. My photo is utterly poor but here it is.


Yes, it’s blurred but you can see the distinctive fingers at the ends of the wings and just make out the red bill.

Now for many, that wouldn’t be anything to get excited about, but it certainly pleased me.

We continued a walk in the area, and then got our picnic to enjoy in glorious surroundings and fantastic weather.

I got my scope out – not that it would have been any good for seeing the fast flying and aerobatic choughs, but I enjoyed watching the gannets which tend to follow much more predictable courses.

Our bit of luck came as we were packing away. All eight choughs appeared over the headland.


This could be something like a quarter of the England population. It’s a magical sight for me.



A Milking Stool

July 21, 2014

I don’t suppose many ordinary householders boast a milking stool amongst their possessions. In the early 1970s my dad returned from a holiday in France and presented me with one. As I can’t remember the year, I can’t be sure if it was at a time when I kept goats. I have a feeling the stool predated that period of my life. This is the stool as is now.


It’s well used – mostly as a mini coffee table. It’s an ideal surface to have beside an easy chair. It’s just perfect for putting a mug on. It has suffered the stains and heat rings of outrageous usage over the years.


I love the simplicity of it – a neat semi-circular top on three legs which are wedged into place, possibly with a tad of glue to help.

I think my dad rather liked the price of it – still just about readable on the underside.


That says 4.70. Back in the early 70s there were about 10 francs to the UK pound. This stool set my dad back the equivalent of about 50p.

And the great thing is that it has seen proper usage when we kept and milked goats. I did actually find it ideal for milking.

And now, with goat keeping long in the past I still find it an elegant little item of furniture. It could, of course, be tarted up. Some gentle sanding to remove the stains and then a coat of varnish to make it shine. But to my mind that would spoil the item. I think it should stay as a cheap and used little piece of furniture.

The mine at Botallack

July 20, 2014

Botallack is close to St Just in Penwith in Cornwall. It is an amazing place and could have a family connection. My wife’s great great grandfather, William Williams was a miner and he lived in the St Just area, possibly for about ten years. He may have worked at Botallack, but there were many other mines in the area.

Botallack has an amazingly dramatic location.


The engine houses have been built on a ledge and on a sheer cliff above the sea. The prospect of building these almost beggars belief. I wonder how much a beam for an engine actually weighs. Being steam engines they’d have needed copious supplies of coal. It was as calm a day as you could wish for when we were there but the wind can howl and the sea can rage. It can be a thoroughly unfriendly place. But what a dramatic one!

A notice in the upper house gives a bit of history.


Crowns Engine Houses Botallack Mine

Worked before 1724 and closed in 1814?? Lower pumping house was built in 1830s and upper winding house ?? in 1858

Preserved 1954 by Carn Brea Mining Society with the help of many individuals and authorities as a tribute to past generations of Cornish miners.

What a great tribute!


What a great place to visit as well.

Doctor Dionysius Lardner

July 19, 2014

Dionysius Lardner was born in Ireland in 1793, became Professor of natural philosophy and astronomy at University College, London in 1828.

He was a great populariser of science through lecture tours and books. I am pleased to have a Lardner book although I find much of it hard to read. These early Victorians were obviously made of sterner stuff.


The book is called ‘Steam and its Uses’ and the reader is taken through the use of steam in stationary engines, railway locomotives and ships.


There is no publication date in the book but Lardner is described as a former professor which dates the book to after 1840. A railway illustration might help date as well.


That looks a fairly early loco and train to me. The people have an 1840s style to them.

Lardner led a controversial life. His private life (which actually seemed to be fairly public) was racy and well laced with scandal. But he is well known for disagreements with Isambard Brunel. Amongst Lardner’s rather foolish claims were:

Regarding Box Tunnel: If a train’s brakes were to fail in the tunnel, it would accelerate to over 120 mph (190 km/h), at which speed the train would breakup and kill the passengers.

Brunel was able to point out that Lardner had forgotten friction and air resistance.

Regarding Brunel’s Great Western Steamship: As the project of making the voyage directly from New York to Liverpool, it was perfectly chimerical, and they might as well talk of making the voyage from New York to the moon… 2,080 mi (3,350 km) miles is the longest run that a steamer could encounter – at the end of that distance she would require a relay of coals.

Great Western made the Atlantic crossing with 200 tons of coal to spare.

Sadly, it seems that an oft repeated quote attributed to Lardner is apocryphal.

Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.

It seems this famous quote first saw the light of day in about 1980.

Grandad’s tankard

July 18, 2014

Grandad’s tankard

All four of our grandfathers were in the forces in World War One. All four survived  - if they hadn’t we wouldn’t be here.

Grandad Fisher – James Fisher – came from the delightful Cheshire village of Gawsworth. Gawsworth honoured its soldiers with a pewter tankard and we now hold James’ tankard.


It’s quite a handsome item but of course it is the inscription that makes it special.


We can see that James rose to officer rank – second lieutenant. He didn’t start that way. We can also note that he was awarded a Military Cross which is one of the highest awards for bravery.

There are tales to be told about James – maybe on a future blog.

Meanwhile, let’s thank Gawsworth for handing out such a good memento of war service.



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