Cigarette Cards

August 4, 2015

I’ll start by saying I am vehemently anti-smoking. But whatever your own standpoint you have to face truths. In times past most men smoked. It was just something you did – a rite of passage between boyhood and manhood.

It isn’t so very different today. Many a young person still takes up the habit because it feels adult to do so, and also a tad rebellious. And of course we all know that smoking is addictive. Once people start it is very hard to stop.

So although I am very anti, I can accept that there is little point being critical of current smokers and of course, there’s no point at all in criticising smokers from the past.

One such was my dad’s cousin, Ernie Stevens. And being a smoker he soon got into collecting the cards that manufacturers put in packets. I have looked at, in the past, my desire to collect Brooke Bond tea cards. It was the same idea. Produce cards in sets and persuade impressionable people they must collect all of them. As a sales method, it seemed to work.

I got to know Ernie in the 1960s. He only lived about 15 miles from us, but before my dad got a car that was just a bit out of range for children. By the time I knew him Ernie was in his 50s and he was pleased to show me a huge collection of cigarette cards. I don’t know why he gave some to me, but he did – some were in albums and some were loose. Let’s look at an album.

image002It’s quite a nicely made little album with a romantic picture on the front.

Inside there are spaces – ten per page – for the cards.


This is part of a set of fifty footballer caricatures. They date from 1926.

Each card has the caricature of a footballer along with his name. This one is Sam Chedzoy.


The artist for all these cards was Rip!

On the back there is a brief biography of the player.


Cards came with all sorts of topics. People saw them as a great way to further an interest or to learn something new.

It was just a shame they had to indulge in the self-lethal habit of smoking.



Thomas Estmond

August 3, 2015

Some researchers reckon that Thomas Estmond was my 10 greats grandfather. Others, and I’m inclined to agree with them, deem the evidence as flimsy and very uncertain. But I have been to see a memorial to Thomas.


This coat of arms hangs in Chardstock Church. Chardstock is just in Devon, right on the eastern edge of that county. I assume this coat of arms records the death of Thomas in 1607.

Interesting that this could be a family relic. But my more definitive link with Estmonds comes in 1681 when Ann Estmond married William Stickland in Wadhurst, Sussex which, perchance, was my own birthplace. It is interesting to note that a possible father for Ann Estmond is George who was born in Shroton – about seven miles from a village called Winterborne Stickland. But that does not actually prove anything.

Great Grandad’s birth

August 2, 2015

1857 does sound a long time ago. It was the year one of our great grandfathers was born on the 24th October of that year. This birth certificate was actually issued in 1912. We do not know why a birth certificate was required then.

Great Grandad's birth certificate. Click this picture for an enlarged and readable version

Great Grandad’s birth certificate. Click this picture for an enlarged and readable version

The great thing about a birth certificate is the information given surrounding the new arrival. We get the names of the parents – William Paul and Mary Ann, formerly Miss Beard as well as that of the new-born – Walter Henry Paul. We get the location of 13 Sargent Street in Bedminster on the Somerset side of Bristol. We haven’t visited this place, but this end of terrace house is 13 Sargent Street on street view. It possibly was not the end of terrace once.

Great Grandad's birth place

Great Grandad’s birth place

We can see that William, a great great grandfather was a carpenter and joiner of journeyman status. That meant he was qualified and had served an apprenticeship but had not, at that time, trained an apprentice himself.

Unfortunately we have been unable to trace much of the Beard ancestors. We think Mary Ann’s father was Thomas who married a Sarah Reed, but that is as far as we go.

Of course, both William and Mary were born before the registration of births, marriages and deaths commenced in 1837 but we know from censuses that William was born in Cirencester and Mary in Bristol.

For unknown reasons Walter’s parents left Bristol before 1881 and went to live in Clacton in Essex. At about the same time Walter and his young wife left Bristol and went to Redruth in Cornwall. Were they trying to get some miles between them? They certainly succeeded.

It is fun trying to fathom out why things happened in those long ago years. But answers can never be definite. One of Walter’s sons left Redruth and went to live in Inverness. Family legend had it that there had been a rift but we discovered that the wife of Percy, up in Inverness had actually come from North East Scotland. So maybe they just went home for her.


August 1, 2015

Today I am looking at another large and rather dusty tome. Here it is.

image002This book is a table of distances.


The book is a 1924 edition and shows the distance from every station on the Southern Railway to every place where the Southern butted up to a different company. We can see it was a Railway Clearing House publication. The Railway Clearing House had the job of allocating the amount of cash to be paid to different companies for journeys involving more than one company.


I have picked on the station called Ash to be an example and even then have shown just one of the four pages needed to deal with Ash and other stations near it in the alphabet. I have chosen Ash for two reasons. Reason one is that it happens to be at the top of a page so you can see the names of junctions and how far they were from Ash.


The second reason is a bit of family history. My Great Great Uncle, George Ware became an engine driver based at Ash. He followed in the footsteps of his father, killed whilst driving a goods train at Sevenoaks. I never knew George but my grandfather recalled going to Guildford once and there was a man with such a family resemblance that he knew it had to be George, who he had never actually met. And it was.

Anyway we can see, for example, that Ash Station was 31 and a bit miles from Reading – junction with the Great Western Railway and a bit over 84 miles to Templecombe for the junction with the Somerset and Dorset Railway.

Now I have to confess I had forgotten where this book came from but it has an inscription in it.


I’m Roger. Robin was my brother, Ann his wife and Cameron their son. Seeing the inscription brought it back.

My brother worked in the building trade and was involved in a project somewhere near the Elephant and Castle in South London. This book was in a building scheduled for demolition and brother Robin rescued it and gave it to me.

So this book is more than just a nerdy tome, it has real family connections. My brother died in 1980 and it was lovely, when I found it, to see this little bit of his handwriting.



July 31, 2015

I think I wrote this in about 1998 when I was first setting up a website.

How sad! I do quite like mowers, although these days I only have a boring grass cutter which is quite devoid of character. In Spring and early Summer I see a lot of this. I have about half an acre to cut.

I knew a lad, recently, who was interested in these devices so I did a line-up of my collection to show him.


My interest in mowers was recognised by my sister. She bought me my best mower.


He’s a gorgeous little model.

I quite like the big mowers too. How convenient that this should appear just outside my garden, whilst I was putting this page together.


Dad, the thespian

July 30, 2015

My dad may not have seemed a likely actor, but he did take part in performances put on by our local amateur dramatics group which was run under the auspices of the Ifield Association.

Such performances always got local press coverage. A reporter/photographer would appear, usually at a dress rehearsal and collect cast names and parts. There may even have been a critic at a performance to write up a report.

Those, of course, were the days when simple and tolerably happy news was enough to sell a newspaper.

Here is one such photo as captioned by my dad.


The information is all there. The play was called ‘Where three ways meet’ and was performed in May 1953 at St Margaret’s Hall. I know nothing about the play but I do know some of the presentations were written ‘in house’.

My dad, HGF, is the policeman. Other performers, all known to me although I’d have been sub five at the time, were Ron Hoad, Bill Jupp, Maureen Yeates and Mary Butler.

I have to say that what I remember most was being able to play at being a policeman, using that helmet. Great fun!

And it is pleasing to have happy memories, although scary that they date from more than 60 years ago!

Train Spotting Days

July 29, 2015

Now I’m the first to admit that collecting train numbers is entirely pointless. But I go on to say that it isn’t any more pointless than kicking a leather airbag around a field or collecting used postage stamps. Hobbies are hobbies and do not need any other purpose. But train spotters get a bad name and are deemed odd.

Let’s say that when I took up the hobby, back in 1959, it wasn’t odd or unusual although it was almost exclusively male. Platform ends up and down the country had gaggles of boys, avidly noting the numbers written on trains. It may seem pointless, but knowledge and skills were being honed all the time.

Let’s take a typical day out train spotting for me. I lived in Crawley, thirty miles south of central London. As an under 14 year old I could buy what was called a shopping ticket to London which cost me half a crown (12½p). So a day would start by walking to my local station and purchasing a ticket. It wasn’t valid before 9.30 so I’d have caught the first train after that. I’d have hoped for an empty compartment, but I definitely wanted a seat on the right hand side facing forwards. This gave me the best chance to spot any unusual steamers on Three Bridges or Redhill shed but as these were fairly local, the chances would be that I’d see only old familiars. Memory needed to be good for you didn’t want to spend time recording numbers of engines you’d already seen.

On arrival at Victoria I’d have bought an underground ticket and taken the circle line round to Paddington and then gone one stop on the Metropolitan to a station called Royal Oak. This was out in the open and within sight of the ends of the main line platforms at Paddington. It had the advantage of a steam engine servicing depot just opposite the platforms and an easy view of all trains going in and out of Paddington. I was never alone there. Here were always other youngsters to chat to. If I felt inclined, I might take the underground again and get to Stratford in East London. This was a station where the underground reached the surface and shared the station with the main line trains out of Liverpool Street. Sometimes I might alight at Kings Cross where I could visit the three main line termini of Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston which were all within walking distance. The hazard here was that I had to hold a valid ticket since this meant leaving the underground network.

Euston and St Pancras I found very dull. The stations may have been magnificent and they had an air of expectation  about them. But that expectation never seemed to be fulfilled. Trains were so few and far between. Kings Cross seemed much more lively.

As one got a bit bolder further London adventures could take place. There were sheds to ‘bunk’. Bunking a shed was to visit it without permission. So sometimes I’d get to Willesden Junction station from where I could take in Willesden shed where I could cop a load of ex LMSR engines and then I could walk to Old Oak Common and see the GWR engines. Old Oak Common was ‘easy’.  You bribed the gate man by purchasing a staff magazine which cost 3d. Willesden was more of a nightmare but worth the risk of a telling off from a shed foreman to see the range of engines there.

I remember I went to Plaistow shed once – on the old London Tilbury and Southend network, especially to see a loco now preserved and called Thundersley.

Despite what people might think, train spotting was a social activity. I had friends who were also spotters and we went to places together and then you met people who had the same interest. There was always company, chatter and general excitement. Most of us stuck fairly well to the rules and certainly we were all big supporters of the railways and truly wished them well at a time when the whole network  seemed under threat.

I’m glad I was a spotter. I learned so much from doing it. My geography and history really improved because I could see the reasons for things. I became a regular reader of the Railway Magazine which did much for world geography, economics, engineering etc.


This May 1962 issue – when I still travelled legally for half fare, has a wonderful Isle of Wight train on the cover. The loco was over 60 by then and carriages were not far short of that, certainly in style.

I still buy a copy from time to time.

Dad’s flower book

July 28, 2015

My dad had books for all occasions – a trait I have inherited. I do find real books a very useful adjunct alongside the internet.

When I was young a favourite pair of books of mine were the matching bird and flower books.  When some of the spoils were shared, I had the bird book and my sister had the flower book and it is that one, which has now come my way, that I look at today.


The book is called ‘Flowers of the Field’.


It isn’t dated but this is by no means a first edition. I believe it dates from the 1920s, some 50 years after the death of the author.

The illustrations are, of course, lovely.


Here we have a page of poppies.

But what makes this book special are the pressed flowers found in tissue paper in between some pages. I believe they were pressed in the 1950s.


Sadly, I have no idea what the plants are.



I believe they were pressed by my sister so I see these flowers as very much a memory of her.

A project?

July 27, 2015

Quite some time ago I commented that somewhere in my loft I had a bit of an old gramophone. Just recently, I have found it and pondered on making it a bit of a project.

Here it is.


Let’s start by listing what is missing.

There is no horn.

There is no sound box.

It needs some felt or baize on the turntable.

A length of beading is broken off and missing.

There is some kind of bush missing where the winding handle passes through the case.

It all looks very tired and in general need of some TLC.

If any experts out there want to tell me the elbow is missing as well – it isn’t. It just wasn’t in place on that photo.

Against that must be set the fact that it has a powerful motor which seems to be in good order. The speed control works and the primitive brake stops it.


It is an elegantly decorated gramophone.

This model of gramophone is known as a Junior Monarch.  It was made by the Gramophone and Typewriter Company as shown on its maker’s label.


This label dates it to pre-1907 so this gramophone is more than 100 years old.

I can buy the two major missing parts for about £70 and I would then have a machine in good working order.

I hope some wax and polish can improve the look of the wood. A little bit of light oil rubbed on the metal parts will improve their appearance. For me, the difficult part is that beading.


And, with borrowed parts you can see and hear this gramophone in action by clicking here.

The record chosen, to match age and make of gramophone is this one.


Now surely it is worth getting that gramophone up and running on a permanent basis.


The wooden walk at Newtown

July 26, 2015

Newtown is one of the seven wonders of the Isle of Wight as sometimes featured on postcards. These wonders are those where the name can be interpreted to be the opposite of what they seem to say. Newtown is neither new nor a town although it was once.

When you’ve had enough of the hurly burly holiday crowds down the east coast of the Isle of Wight, Newtown offers peace, tranquillity and a goodly chance of either solitude or maybe an interesting birder or two.

I’ve featured Newtown before on this blog. Indeed I have featured this photo of the wooden walk.

image001This was ten years ago and to walk out to ‘the hut’ you had to negotiate this. It was rickety and just a tad scary and if, perchance, somebody came the other way then it was a very tight squeeze to pass. Wheelchairs certainly couldn’t cross the wooden walk. So the peace and beauty at the far end was out of bounds for such users.

But after storm damage, the whole wooden walk was replaced. The new structure maybe lacks the rustic charm of the old one. It is solid and feels dependable. It is wide enough and smooth enough for a wheelchair to traverse it. I worried that it might increase the number of people seeking the strange little ‘middle of nowhere’ spot on the Newtown River estuary. That doesn’t seem to have happened, probably because once you leave the small car park there really are no facilities. The car park offers loos and close proximity to the old Town Hall. This is a National Trust property and worth a visit but check opening times. It doesn’t open in winter months and doesn’t ever open every day.

But once you set out on the walk (little more than a kilometre) you are on your own. Anything you think you might need you have to carry with you.

And here’s the present day wooden walk which even has a passing place near that little pond to the left of the walk.


I have seen a wheelchair user cross it. Good for that person.

It’s a great walk for seeing birds. Black headed gulls are common.


There are always egrets about.


There are wading birds of many kinds. Here’s an oyster catcher.


He’s been poking that probing, orange bill in the mud!

No wonder I am regularly drawn to this spot.




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