November 25, 2015

Today I am unashamedly showing some railway locos that will keep me happy. The small tank engines built by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in the 1870s became my favourite type of loco in my train spotting days getting on for 90 years after they were built. A few were still in service. One of them, my absolute favourite, was number 32635 which had been painted in its 1870s colour scheme. When I knew this loco it fussed around Brighton station, shunting things out of the way. Sadly, that particular engine got scrapped, but others survived. The work these engines did earned them the nickname, ‘Terriers’.

Back in 2001, on a trip to the Bluebell Railway they had no less than four of these wonderful locos gathered together and all working trains.

image002There are two of them about to depart with a train from Sheffield Park.



Here’s a third. This is Stepney, the Bluebell Railway’s first loco acquired back in 1960. She is in that 1870s livery so looks very much like I remember that Brighton shunter.

And here’s the fourth Terrier running round a train.


What a fab day that was. And there were other locos in steam and operating as well.


Battered but beautiful

November 24, 2015

Can an old dictionary be beautiful? Probably not in any normal sense, but this one has beautiful history attached to it.

image002We can see from the front of it that this book has seen plenty of use and has also seen better days. We have to look at the spine to see what we have.


This is the modern universal dictionary and world atlas. The question is, when was it modern for it certainly isn’t in 2015. Maybe a picture inside can give a clue. There are several black and white whole page photos in this dictionary and some of them show modern items. There is a photo of the Queen Mary Ship which was launched in 1934, a photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was completed in 1932 but I have chosen one of the London Television Station at Alexandra Palace which came into use in 1936 and then ceased to operate during World War Two.


But the give-away for date is the bookplate stuck in the front.


This was a prize awarded for proficiency in the knowledge of Holy Scripture and it was awarded to Violet Ware in May 1938.

Violet Ware was my mother and it is this plate that makes the book beautiful in my eyes. It also tells us this book was modern 75 years ago. Mum grew up in Tonbridge which was at the heart of the area this prize was for.

My mum died almost 50 years ago when I was still a youngster so I really treasure these odd snippets of her early life.


Another gramophone

November 23, 2015

If I was asked if I needed another gramophone then the answer would undoubtedly have been, ‘no’.

But one was gifted to me and I reckon it is actually useful so I’m pleased to have it.

By my standards this is a modern gramophone – perhaps of the type more usually called a record player. It is electrically powered, rather than by a clockwork motor. It has a light weight tone arm and uses long life sapphire tipped styli (Is that the plural of stylus?).

But this ‘modern’ device is probably fifty years old – maybe a bit more. When I started gathering old gramophones, also more than fifty years ago, the old machines I collected were in the region of thirty or forty years old so this one is certainly a fairly vintage device. Here it is.


This is a Phillips Diamond model. The speaker forms a lid for when the machine is not in use. It has four speeds – 16, 33, 45 and 78. It also has an auto-changer which allows eight or maybe ten records to be stacked up on the spindle. These drop, one by one, onto the deck to be played. That works fine with 7 inch 45s. Because of the age of 78 rpm record I have, the auto-changer is not so suitable. Most of my records don’t have a lead in groove so the needle drops onto the outer rim and just stops there until gently pushed into the groove. Many of the records have no lead out and that is needed to start the mechanism that gets the next disc ready to play. But it was, of course, a clever system in its day.

This model is AG4025/W15. But I can’t find much about it.


Arten Gill

November 22, 2015

The railway line between Ribblehead and Dent is dramatic in scenery and engineering. What is the case, in my eyes, is that the Victorian railway engineering actually enhances the natural beauty of the area.

Ribblehead Viaduct is well known and I have featured that on this blog. Soon after northbound trains cross the viaduct they plunge into Blea Moor Tunnel – well over a mile and a half long. Once through that there are a couple more significant viaducts before England’s highest station at Dent is reached. One of the viaducts is over Arten Gill.

This is Arten Gill viaduct as seen from near Dent Station. It is in a remote location, but once Arten Gill was a veritable hive of industry.


Having left this good view point, I realised a freight train was about to cross the viaduct so I found another, less good viewpoint and snapped.


Having had these glimpses, I had to take a closer look.


Now that is glorious. It is taller than Ribble
head and the confined location probably makes it look taller still. And here’s my wife as we start to get up close to the viaduct.


Yes, it is a fine view down Arten Gill.


The viaduct is made of the local stone which is called Dent marble but is actually a form of limestone.


This time we were lucky enough to see a passenger train cross the viaduct.


What a lovely, lonely location. Building the viaduct there almost beggars belief.

Durham Park by Mathias Hess

November 21, 2015

My family are very thankful to Mathias Hess. I never knew him – in fact I don’t think any of us still alive ever knew him but we know of his existence and we know some of what he did.

Mathias was a German prisoner of war in England. When he was captured, I do not know, but he was still in England in 1946. My dad was working in POW camps at that time and got to know Mathias and this is what he wrote about him.

MATTHIAS HESS was a German prisoner of war in 145 GPW Working Camp based at Normanhurst Court, Battle (now demolished). I was on the staff and my home, Beals Oak, Wadhurst was in the grounds of the satellite camp at WadhurstPark.          

Matthias Hess was given some purely nominal work and allowed, in practice, to exercise his artistic talents around East Sussex, staying from time to time at any of the satellite camps – Hollington, Robertsbridge, Hurst Green, Wadhurst,   Halland, Hadlow Down & Hurstmonceax.  We often entertained him at Beals Oak.

Two drawings by Mathias (I use his own spelling of the name rather than the one Dad used with two ts) are of that home, Beals Oak, and the people there – my dad, my mum and their first born who was my sister.

My dad’s memories of him come from about 1980 but he added that after the war:

I never heard, of him again. As I remember him, 35 years later, he must have been around 40 at the tine – certainly above average age for a POW.

I have a picture that has come to me which is by Mathias Hess and here it is.


The picture carries a signature, a year and a title.


So there we have it. In 1946 Mathias Hess created this picture and called it Durham Park.

Now I want help. I’d love to trace any family of Mathias. On my dad’s estimate he’d have been born in around 1906, presumably in Germany but I have no idea where.

And where is Durham Park. Again, on my Dad’s memories you’d think it was in East Sussex. Maybe Mathias got the name wrong for I trace no Durham Park in Sussex.

Do get in touch if you can help me find any information about Mathias or can identify where this picture shows.



A girl in Kalamazoo

November 20, 2015

It probably won’t surprise folks to know that I’m something of a fan of Glen Miller. Over the years I have garnered in a lot of original 78rpm records but I also have versions on CD. One of his songs begins:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H,
I got a girl
In Kalamazoo.

Branches of my family ended up in Kalamazoo and amongst them was Sarah Ann Huggett who was born in 1840 in Peasmarsh in Sussex, England.

In 1860 she married her quite distant cousin, Ben Huggett in Michigan, USA. He, too, was born in Peasmarsh but he was eight years older than Sarah Ann so they probably weren’t too close as kids although they’d have surely known each other.

They had several children and lived to a reasonable age. Well actually, Sarah Ann was only 63 when she died and here we have a copy of her death certificate.


So Sarah Ann Huggett – a name she had before and after marriage was my girl in Kalamazoo. Both she and Ben, her husband, descend from  John Huggett and Philapelphia (née) Vann who were my 5 greats grandparents.



November 19, 2015

In the past we had travelled on the Settle and Carlisle railway between Ribblehead and Carlisle – it had been two trips. On the most recent holiday in that area we thought we’d complete the journey – and do the most exciting bit for a second time by travelling from Dent – England’s highest station, over the Ribblehead Viaduct and down to Settle. We could take a look at this little town before returning.

We arrived in Settle and watched our train head off to complete its journey to Leeds.

The Friends of the Settle and Carlisle Railway do a fantastic job supporting owners and operators and making sure stations are kept in good order.

But private enterprise does its bit too. Just outside the station there is an old water tank which stored much needed water for steam locos. It has been converted into a home with heritage extras added.



Settle is a pleasant market town and it was market day.


This building houses a rather quirky museum.


As you’d expect, Settle is in glorious surroundings.


Back on the station for our return, we found ‘The Friends’ even provide entertainment by having bird feeders.


Niches in the station wall have unexpected characters to amuse children of all ages.


These little extras make the travelling experience so much more delightful.

From a letter sent in 1996

November 18, 2015

It seems hard to imagine now, but back in 1996 we actually sent letters to people we cared about. You know the things – sheets of paper with writing on that were put in an envelope with an address on the front and with a stamp in the top right hand corner. You dropped them in a post box and a day or so later your intended recipient was able to read what you had sent.

In 1996 I was a computer user and had been for more than a decade. But the internet hadn’t reached me. I used what I still rate as one of the best ever computers – an Acorn A3000. I could be creative with that. I could use a word processor and desk top publishing software. I could also use the absolutely fantastic ‘Draw’ program that came with the computer. My letters were produced in this way – a pity in a way for that meant they were not hand written, but back in 1996 I was well up with the times in doing what I did.

One letter I sent had this image incorporated in it.


That’s meant to represent me standing on a skateboard and using a diablo. The grey line across it is a result of being on a folded piece of paper for close on twenty years.

The image was 100% produced by me on that wonderful Acorn Draw program. Yes, it is simple and the printer quality was not brill, but I was quite pleased with it.

But me on a skateboard doesn’t ring all that true. You’d have to have the caption with it. It said ‘Teacher Training Day’. For yes, I was once, long ago it feels now, a school teacher and these were activities we had to indulge in at a training day. This was a day in which the school was closed to pupils and the staff enhanced their skills.

We were learning, or being reminded, that people have different centres of intelligence. I was proving I had physical intelligence by being able to learn a new skill.

The chances are it never made much difference to teaching, but in my letter I reported that I thought it had been a good and worthwhile day. As I had a tendency to regard many of our training days as a waste of time, that was rare praise from me. I hope it made me think about different ways in which I could get across to the youngsters. I hope it made a small difference.

At least after the event I practised some computer skills!

A tub boat at Blists Hill

November 17, 2015

Tub boats were small barges that could carry goods into difficult terrain. Obviously, they floated along tub boat canals – particularly in Shropshire, but where a hill was in the way, the boats were floated into rail borne cradles and hauled up.

Blists Hill is in the Ironbridge Gorge area and is a large open air museum. It has the Hay inclined plane – the tub boat railway that lifted the boats more than 200 feet from roughly River Severn level and it also has tub boats.

I was there in 1972 when the museum was in its glorious infancy. There were traces of rail visible on the inclined plane.


I think that’s me standing a bit up the slope so my wife must have had the old Canon Demi camera at that time.

I believe that trackway is now fully restored and railed. No doubt it makes more sense in restored order but somehow it lacks that pioneering look.

Up at the top the tub boat would have been re-floated in the canal for more of its journey, delivering coal to local factories. This was the scene back in 1972.


The very rectangular vessel in front is an old wrought iron tub boat.

Happy memories!

A footballer in the family

November 16, 2015

I suspect many of us make similar mistakes when we start genealogy. We all seem to like to collect names. Sites like genes reunited seem to make play of having a big family tree and I know, from asking questions of people, that many have people on trees that are relatives of in laws – so not really related to them at all.

Well Joseph Frost is related to me but maybe he’s more distant than I’d bother too much about these days. He is a fourth cousin once removed. This means that we share less than 2% of our ancestry and we are therefore 98% not related. But here we’ll just hang on to that not quite 2% for I have a photo which I think is Joseph. It came from a book about Heathfield.


Young Frost is sitting on the right hand end of the middle row of three players. He was a member of the Heathfield United Football Club for the 1909-10 season. Heathfield is in East Sussex.

Joseph was born in about 1885 in Burwash. In 1911 he was living in Heathfield with his parents and a brother. Joseph was a house painter by trade.

However distant, it is lovely to find an image of a relative in a local history book.


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