On a trig point

May 28, 2015

It’s funny how little concrete structures on the tops of hills have featured in my life. They are correctly called triangulation stations and before the era of satellite photography they were the places where map makers could mount a theodolite and ‘triangulate’ – work out distances and the lie of the land for maps.


This must have been an early introduction to these structures and I fear there isn’t enough evidence to give me a definite location, but it would, for sure, have been on the South Downs in Sussex.

I choose to show this photo more as a family reminder. My brother, who so sadly died far too young back in 1980, was always more of an adventurer than me and he managed the task of scrambling up to the top of the station and he’s standing there, proud as can be whilst our mother looks on admiringly.

I am the third person, standing a little forlornly alongside. I do recall my annoyance that I was quite unable to master the feat my brother had achieved of clambering up on top.  Well, he was a good twenty months older than me and I’m guessing this photo was taken in about 1953.

My most recent encounter with a trig point as we always called them was on Sand Point near Weston Super Mare in Somerset. This was on March 27th 2015


And that’s my wife peering over the top. These days we do not even think of clambering up these little monuments to what is now old fashioned map making.

Wall art

May 27, 2015

When our children were young we used to encourage them to scribble on walls but only in that short space of time after old wallpaper had been removed and before new went on. Our walls are a bit uneven and not all of the plaster is totally sound so we feel we have to use wallpaper. Emulsion paint isn’t really an option.

Back in 2005 we redecorated a room which had previously been done in 1989. Removing the 1989 wallpaper revealed, once again, some of the doodles done by our youngsters and here are a couple of them.

This one, dated, is clearly the work of our son and below, judging by the cat we see the work of daughter.


Re-finding these old ‘works of art’ is such fun. It almost makes it a pleasure to remove old wallpaper!

August 8th 1918

May 26, 2015

August 8th 1918

This day was oft called the black day of the German army. It was the first day of the Battle of Amiens and it really was the beginning of the end.

It was also the day on which my wife’s grandfather won a Military Cross. He was, by then, a captain in the Tank Corps. We know his tank was hit and caught fire. Still under fire he rescued as many as he could of his crew – but sadly, not all of them. Grandfather’s tank had been attached to a Canadian regiment and using their wonderful on line diaries we have been able to trace just where grandfather went on that fateful day. Near the point where his tank was hit there is a cemetery and it contains Tank Corps men. We don’t know, but maybe they were with Grandad and failed to escape from the blazing inferno of his tank.

Grandad, of course, survived but like so many Great War veterans, he never talked about it. My wife never knew he had been awarded such a high bravery award until long after his death.  So of course we do not know the names of his tank crew.

But here is one of the graves in the Beaucourt British Cemetery.


Note it has two names on it. We know nothing of Private J Oliver or Private W Barrett who sadly, along with so many others on both sides of this conflict, paid with their lives.

A Yellowhammer

May 25, 2015

A few days ago I was out walking in the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire, with wife, son and granddaughter. We were lucky enough to see a yellowhammer. That’s not a painted device for knocking in nails. It’s a bird in the bunting family.

Not only did we see it. The bird sat on a rather roughly chopped hedge and posed for us.


Isn’t that a glorious sight? I certainly thought so as did the adult members of the walk. I think granddaughter had fallen asleep by this time.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of birds this species is severely endangered. They are on the red list. The population of these birds ‘dropped like a stone’ in the 1990s but there are still thought to be about 700000 pairs of them which is, I guess, about 1 pair of yellowhammers for every 100 people.

I certainly don’t often see these more or less sparrow sized birds  so that lovely fellow was enough to draw gasps of wonder from us.

We suspect there were others about but this was the one which stayed and could be identified.


On Maid of the Loch

May 24, 2015

I feel incredibly lucky to have travelled on Loch Lomond on the paddle steamer, ‘Maid of the Loch’. This old paddle steamer still exists. It was 1970 and my (then fiancée) and I were youth hostelling in Scotland. I can tell you this was a grand holiday for me as we did much of our travelling by train, covering the West Highland line, The Kyle Line and the far north line. We also used ferries and one of them was from Balloch Pier to Tarbet and this was our trip on Maid of the Loch.

Actually, back then she was still a comparative youngster for she had been built in 1953 – the last paddle steamer built in Britain. Interestingly (to me at any rate) was that she was made as a construction kit and delivered to Tarbet by rail for assembly,

The memory of sound shifts in the Glasgow area stick with me. As we awaited the arrival of the Maid at Balloch Pier an excited Glasgow youngster saw her coming and called, ’Mammy, It’s a beg shap’. Or, as we Sassenachs might say, ‘Mummy, it’s a big ship’.

I surely have a photo of The Maid somewhere. This was the era of half frame colour slides on my little Canon Demi camera.

What I have here is a bit of the sharp end and a view of Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond.


I have driven up past Loch Lomond several times since and I have to say I find it hard to actually get to the banks to find out if they are ‘bonny’. But on Maid of the Loch it was a glorious experience and I am delighted to have made that trip. Yet I do have one regret for it means there is a part of the West Highland railway – the bit alongside Loch Long – that I have still never travelled.

Kit Williams

May 23, 2015

Christopher Williams was the brother of my wife’s great grandmother which must make him a great great uncle. He was a Cornish man from the Redruth area and an extremely elusive man to find.

He was known as Captain Kit. We don’t think he was a military captain, but rather a mine captain. And like many a Cornishman he travelled, not just within Cornwall or England, but all over the world.

He was born in about 1853 in Hayle but being part of a mining family would mean he moved around.

In 1861 he was with his family in Camborne and in 1871 he was with the family in Redruth. He married Mary Harry in 1879. She had been born in Australia but was part of a Redruth mining family.

In 1881 Christopher was described as a shopkeeper at 8 Fore Street in Redruth.


We have copied examples of adverts he placed in the Cornubian newspaper. Above is 1882 and below is 1883


We rather think it was his wife who ran the shop for Christopher was managing a mine in India for much of the time, but got home enough to father four children between 1880 and 1891.

Mary appears on the 1891 census but Christopher must have been away from home.

Neither Mary nor Christopher were blessed with long lives. Mary died in 1896. Christopher died in 1900


The newspaper carried this notice.

In 1901 the three younger children, Thomas, May and Christopher lived with an Aunt. Edward can’t be found and by 1911 all four of Kit’s children seem to have vanished.

Of course, we’d love to know more.

William Lanceley

May 22, 2015

In reply to a blog comment, the other day, I suggested that genealogy which is a list of names and dates is just a tad uninteresting. I like censuses because they give just a bit of information. Gravestones can, as well and I know my great great uncle, William Lanceley, via census and gravestone only. Let’s start with the gravestone which I snapped (with the camera) back in 2003. I knew I was related to people called Lanceley back then, but at the time I had not identified William. So as ever, I broke that rule of genealogy which says ‘start from the known and work towards the unknown’.  This was an unknown and I was able, very easily, to work towards the known.

In terms of technology, 2003 was almost the dark ages. We didn’t have mobile access to the internet back then and so research to identify William had to wait until I was home from a family history hunt in Cheshire. So, my raw data was a grave photo.


This was in Timperley churchyard and straight away stories appear. Freddy, infant son of William and Emma died in 1891. One can imagine the sadness. And William himself was no great age when he died. Emma had nearly twenty years as a widow.

Something else that was not available in 2003 was the 1911 census.


Had I seen that we might have searched out 89 Oakfield Street in Altrincham where William and Emma lived.

One of the aspects I like about the 1911 census is that it asked the fertility questions – how many children have you had and how many are still alive? It means we know that after 28 years of marriage William and Emma had had just two children, one of whom was Freddy. The other was Alice who was born in 1883.

We also know from the censuses that William was a blacksmith. This wouldn’t have been a romanticised rural blacksmith. Quite probably William worked in a factory for he was listed (in 1901) as a worker.

Alice married Joseph Ashley, a waterman working on the River Weaver Navigation in 1909. They had had no children by the time of the 1911 census.

Timperley church is not, in my judgement, the prettiest structure. I took this photo on the same 2003 visit.


Maud the Mill

May 21, 2015

The Maud Foster drain is a watercourse in Boston, Lincolnshire. Alongside it there is a massive windmill which is called the Maud Foster Mill. It is a grand structure.


The most striking thing for me, used to neat and tidy south of England mills, is that this one has five sails. Well, there is that and just the sheer height of the structure. Boston is in the flat lands of Eastern England and height may have been needed to get a good smooth air flow. Had there been a hill, then a less dramatic, smaller mill could have been built on it. But Boston is not known for hills. So this mill has three floors before you reach the gallery at fourth floor level. The gallery, of course, gave access to individual sails.

This mill dates from 1819. It remained in commercial use until 1948 and then, rapidly fell into disrepair before full restoration in 1987. The mill works and tourists can buy its products.

There are eight sets of stones for grinding the grain making this the most productive windmill in Britain.

The granary, next to the mill is also a charming building but is overshadowed by Maud the Mill.

We visited in 2001 and the photo above is actually two shots stitched together to produce a large photo of the entire mill. That hardly matters on a blog post where images are small. It is interesting, though, to remember the tricks of the trade from those much earlier digital photography days.

The Metronome

May 20, 2015

Another family ‘heirloom’ here – of no great value, of course.

It’s a metronome. That’s one of those ticking machines that musicians use to help them keep the right tempo for their music. It has a clockwork mechanism so, of course, I love it.

But this one belonged to my wife’s family. In fact, her grandfather was something of a violinist and it belonged to him.

It’s a neat pyramidal shaped wooden box.


I call that an elegant shape. The front opens.


And there we see the ‘pendulum’ which keeps up a regular ticking sound. If the slider is moved to the top of the pendulum it ticks slowly whereas down at the bottom the music would have to be, ‘at the gallop’. The scale tells you how many ticks per minute you’ll get.

Of course, there are comprehensive instructions on the inside of the door.


One sentence starts, ‘If the metronome has a bell…’. Well this one does. It is operated with a pull out knob just by the winding key.


This knob can be set to various time types so you can get the metronome to go, ding, tick, tick, tick, or ding, tick, tick or just ding, tick.

The removable bottom plate is missing from this metronome which means we can see and enjoy the works.


Oh dear. I didn’t check that for cobwebs. I didn’t see them until I used flash to cope with the interior darkness! I love the elegant simplicity of it.

These devices wouldn’t be complete without a maker’s plate. It is on the front of the door.


So it is a Metronome de Maelzel imported from Switzerland.

From web research I think this could be Victorian although I have to say that the ones sold by specialists seem classier than this one in terms of the wood use and the label. But never mind! It’s an item to be loved and cherished.

A Thousand and One Nights.

May 19, 2015

Regulars will know I have quite a large collection of the old 78 RPM records.  Most I have because I like the music from what might get called the jazz age. I do like jazz but equally I like the less jazzy dance band music of the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

Some of my records, though, celebrate a milestone in history or maybe have a quirky record label and this one, I think, has both of these.

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph which played cylindrical tubes. They, of course, could only have a track cut into one side.

Emil Berliner’s gramophone played the flat discs we call records and a big advantage was the ability to press the groove into it making mass production easier. But at first nobody thought of putting another track on the underside of the record. They were all ‘single siders’.

When the light dawned it was something to celebrate and this record does just that by calling itself ‘The Twin’ and stating in big writing that it is a double sided record.

So here is one side of this record.


This, as you can see, is not Thousand and One Nights. Labels stuck on that side rather obscure some parts, but here it is.


The 6D label can’t have anything to do with the original record and must have been stuck on later. The original label has the look of its age (about 1908). The fonts all have that little line known as a serif at the ends of each stroke. The 6D is a very austere sand serif font and is surely much more recent. But, having said that, the other label, presumably put there by a retailer, is also in a sans serif font.

I have recorded this, played on my little Peter Pan Gramophone. The quality is dreadful. The old record is well worn and very hissy!

You can hear Thousand and One Nights by clicking here.


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