Archive for November, 2012

A Nerd in 2012

November 30, 2012

Many a time, on this blog, I have looked back to the past. And so I am today, but the past I look back to was only yesterday. For yesterday, Thursday November 29th 2012, a steam train was due to pass quite close to my house. This is nothing incredibly unusual. Indeed the blog header I have used (so far) shows a steam train with a ‘black 5’ and a King Arthur class within my home parish. For this steam train I looked to the same location with the train on an embankment.

At some point soon I shall make a comment about the expense of photography in times past. By comparison, photography is now very cheap. I decided to have two cameras – neither of them amazingly special. One I would stick on a tripod and allow it to take a movie of the train. The other I would use for my still shot. If I had an all singing camera like my son uses then I’d have been able to press the shutter and taken half a dozen pictures in rapid succession. I have to make do with one shot. And in truth, my location really only had one place to take that shot.

It is always good to get some practice so I didn’t mind when a freight train from the Somerset stone quarries passed by.

That’s a still from the movie. I was set up for a train in the opposite direction so the loco is away in the distance. But here’s a still with the other camera.

Actually, it’s confession time. I am clearly not nerd enough. I do not know what class of diesel loco this is. I shall stick my neck out and suggest a class 59. Somebody is sure to tell me if I’m wrong.

But for me this was just the warm up act. I had a chance to make sure both cameras worked and I could manage the two of them. Ten minutes later, the steamer came. This was not just any steam loco. This was Tornado which was built in 2008 and after trials hauled her first main line train in 2009. She has been on my local line once before but I made a complete hash of photos.

There’s my still photo which I can zoom in on just a bit. Tornado was certainly steaming well.

Ah yes. Tornado has recently been repainted in a blue livery once carried by her class mates some 60 or so years ago.

The video is uploaded to YouTube. Click here to see it.

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A Collision of Interests

November 29, 2012

If you look at this blog with any regularity, you’ll know I’m interested in family history and railways. On 7th June 1884 an event took place which merges both interests. The location was the railway station at Sevenoaks in Kent. The event was a train crash involving great great grandfather, John Ware. A local photographer recorded the scene soon after this event.

John had been driving that leading engine. He and his fireman were crushed and killed. Interestingly the second engine – the one on its side – came off better and the crew survived. Both engines were hauling the same goods train which ran into another at the station.

A distant relative has the pocket watch that my ancestor had with him whilst driving this train.

The lock of hair was inside (and still is) the watch. We do not know whose hair it is. I guess it is probably the hair of his first wife who had died in 1869. John married my great great grandmother, Amelia, in 1871

So two interests collided with fatal results – and here’s an afterthought.

After three years, Amelia finally had access to John’s estate – a princely £5 worth. A couple of years later, she remarried

Ferries – 1954 and 2004

November 28, 2012

During my early life ferries were something you watched. They departed from Newhaven in Sussex and vanished beyond the horizon. I knew the destination was Dieppe. It meant nothing to me. The ships mattered, or more to the point the names of them did – particularly if they were named after a French place. My favourite was the Lisieux.

And there is Lisieux, leaving Newhaven in August 1954. That looks like my brother on the left. The open public decks on the vessel are crowded with waving people, saying farewell to England for a while. Lisieux was new then, for she had only entered service the year before. She operated the route until 1964 which meant she was there for most of my childhood.

We often watched these ferries from some miles away on top of the South Downs near Firle. They always sounded a hooter before entering harbour and we’d watch out for the puff of steam from the hooter and then time how long it was until we heard it.

‘It’s a mile for every 5 seconds’, my dad told us. It was over 4 miles, so we counted up our seconds for quite some time.

And now we’ll slip forward 50 years to 2004. By now I was a fairly regular ferry user (but only once on the Newhaven to Dieppe route). I was still was happy to watch them.

In 2004 my wife and I camped at Stromness on Orkney – a fabulous island group off the north coast of Scotland. At that time the ferry was the Hamnavoe – or Hammy as we called it. It plied back and forth on the hour and a half crossing from Scrabster on the mainland to Stromness. On its final approach to the dock it can’t have been much more than 250 yards from our tent. She woke us on her night sailings but still we loved her.

That’s Hamnavoe in Hamnavoe – the stretch of water by Stromness is what the ship is named after.

There may be more from Scottish or further flung islands in the future. They seem to have been part of life for some time.

Ten years ago

November 27, 2012

November 2002; a steam train was passing on a nearby line. I had to go and see it. There’s a fairly local overbridge which I know offers a good vantage point near Cheverell. I made my way there. And here’s the delightful scene as 73096 was taking a long way round between Alton and Salisbury.

Now there was a time when I’d have thought little of a British Railways Standard engine. Number 73096 is, after all, younger than me, both in its design date and its actual build date. But by 2002 we steam beggars could not be choosers. In any case, 73096 did belong to one of my favourite classes of ‘standards’, helped along by my local Southern Region giving a few of these engines names from retired King Arthur class locos.

73096 was not one of the named engines. The first locomotive in the series appeared in April 1951. 73096 emerged from the works at Derby in November 1955. She was used on the London Midland region and also the Western Region – but not on my beloved ‘Southern’. In 1959 this loco was based at Shrewsbury. And she was still there in 1962. Her short life as an active engine in front line service ended in November 1967.

She was purchased, for scrap by Dai Woodham where she languished for 18 years before being bought for preservation in 1985.

And what a fine sight she made in 2002. I’ll forgive her lack of a Southern past for she looks the part as she heads a rake of carriages well matched in ‘Southern’ green. This could have been a train from my 1960s past. Actually, no train would ever have carried the headboard this one had which sounds more like a ticket of the 1960s – ‘Standard Day Return’.

Great Grandfather’s Grave

November 26, 2012

It is almost 100 years since Great Grandfather died. There’ll be nobody alive now who knew him. He departed this life on January 28th 1913 and his Baptist beliefs would have made him certain of better things to come in the hereafter.

Great Grandfather had become crippled with arthritis. He was weary of this life and was ready to go to that better place he was certain of.

Great Grandfather was buried in his local churchyard – Hadlow Down in East Sussex. A wooden memorial was erected on the grave. Some years later, Grandfather took a photo of the grave.

How lovely to have that photo, for the wooden memorial has long since rotted away. There is not a sign of it in existence any more. But maybe a better memorial has taken its place. For, as in Flanders fields, where the poppies grow, natural flora has grown on the grave. This was what grew on the site in June 2006.

Yes, an orchid has sprouted. I’m fairly sure this is the most ordinary British orchid – the common spotted. But beauty doesn’t change or lessen just because something is common.  I think it is a great memorial to Great grandfather.

Who was Adelaide?

November 25, 2012

Some years ago I purchased a CD which had images of old parish magazines from Burwash in East Sussex. I knew I had family from that location and on scanning through I found the name Clarke- a good family name. I wrote something at the time (2008). Here’s what I wrote.

Adelaide Frances Clarke

Adelaide Frances Clarke was baptised on December 18th 1881 at Burwash, according to the January 1882 edition of the parish magazine, which was called Home Words for Heart and Hearth. This is a copy of that part of the magazine. My Great Granny Frost had been born Ruth Clarke and she certainly had connections with the Burwash area. In fact Great Granny had a cousin called Adelaide Clarke, born in about 1839 at Burwash. This Adelaide had married James Leaves and this family are known to be buried at the Heathfield Independent Chapel on Cade Street. Maybe Adelaide Frances was linked to this other Adelaide, and thus to me. Adelaide ought to be easy to find, for the name is slightly unusual and we know that her mum and dad were Jane and James. But Adelaide may well have been born after the 1881 census and so she’d have to have survived close on ten years to be on the 1891 census. I try to make sure I find a person on a census search. Clarke is often spelled without the final e – as Clark. So I search for Clark* because that gets both versions of the name. Adelaide was clearly born before December 1881, but an age on the census was ‘age last birthday’. She might well be only 9 and parents can often get ages wrong, so I’d search for a birth year of 1881 plus or minus a couple. It’s a fair bet she was born in Burwash, but not certain. I’d use my knowledge of the area to help to be sure I was finding the right Adelaide. But in this case it is easy. The 1891 census has 14 Adelaide Clark* born between 1879 and 1883. One of them has parents James and Jane and she was born at Burwash. The birth year given is 1882 and we already know she was born before then. We can also see that James and Jane have been up to rabbit standard when it comes to producing children. James and Jane have ten children, all under the age of 21. No wonder the family, at Bardown Cottage in Ticehurst, stretches onto two pages of the census book. But those older siblings might prove useful in tracing back, and the three oldest lads, like their father, agricultural labourers, are probably helping to make the family feel prosperous. James was 40 and came from Burwash which is a good omen for a family link to me. Jane was a mere 38 and from Ashburnham. The Freebmd web site records a marriage between John Mitchell and Adelaide Frances Clarke in the first quarter of 1899, Hailsham district. It looks as though Adelaide was, like her mother, a fecund young lady for by the 1901 census there were two young Mitchells in the family. Just to make life a bit harder for the researcher, the transcriber of the 1901 census has spelled a forename as Adalaide. In finding our Adelaide, I had to try things out – first Ade* and then Ada* , born in Burwash in 1881 plus or minus a couple. That gave me a possible Mitchell surname which Freebmd confirmed. Looking back to 1881, we find that Adelaide was not born. James and family lived at Witherenden Cottages in Burwash and James was a dairy man. The oldest child, Edward, was 10. James was given as 33 so there’s an age problem with him. But Edward allows us to find the family easily on the 1871 census. James was 24 and Jane 17. They lived at Ale Thatch in Ashburnham and James was a farm labourer. Surely an 1861 census, or an 1851 one can find the link. With James’s ability to be a bit variable in age, I could have problems. But I’m sure he was born in Burwash so I should get him. 1861 gives James as a servant at Brightling which is not useful to me, but 1851 has four year old James as a son of Thomas and Sophia Clarke and a brother of that older Adelaide. So James, too, was a cousin of Great Granny. Adelaide Frances was her cousin once removed – my Grandad’s second cousin. This family lived at Glazers Forge, a place I know, well out of the village. In 1841, Thomas and Sophia had been at Little Poundsford, also out in the sticks, not so far from Glazers. I’d have liked to have identified, for certain, James’s wife, Jane. FreeBMD gives a possible marriage but of course, a list of two men and two women on a page does not tell you who married who. However, James Clark and Jane Cramp are listed on the same page, in the appropriate Battle area, in the first quarter of 1870.This fits well with the birth of young Edward towards the end of 1870. But the 1861 census gives no Jane Cramp from Ashburnham. It does give a Jane Winchester of the right age. I’m left with a question mark. I still think it was Jane Cramp, for there was Cramp family in Ashburnham (parents Charles and Clarissa) and they were producing children at a time when Jane was born and they have a gap into which Jane would fit – perhaps the Jane listed on FreeBMD as born in 1854 in the Battle district. I think she missed the 1861 census for some reason.

A Sailing Barge at Lewes

November 24, 2012

I’ve commented before on my Dad’s interest in almost everything and here’s a case in point. In August 1954 Dad snapped this picture.

The scene is the River Ouse just on the downstream side of Lewes, county town of East Sussex. The famous cliff is on the right – scene of the awful tragedy of December 1836. Amazingly, it wasn’t so much a cliff collapse as an avalanche of snow which crashed down the cliff destroying a row of cottages and killing eight people.

Let’s lighten the mood. One of my favourite spoof book titles, remembered from childhood was, ‘The Cliff Tragedy’ by Eileen Dover.

And now back to the photo where all looks calm, still and a tad grey on this August 1954 day. Holding centre stage is a sailing barge. I’m sure dad would have taken this shot knowing their days were numbered. Now I’m not an expert on sailing barges – different styles were adopted for specific circumstances in different parts of the country – but I think this is a Thames sailing barge. Do tell me if I’m wrong.

They do still exist although whether any really carry cargo, I don’t know. My dad hired one in 1975 as part of an Industrial Archaeology Course he was running. I was there! We set sail from Malden in Essex.

That’s dad at the helm

A group of ‘passengers’ go ashore on the tender. That’s the Thames sailing barge (she was called Dawn) in the background

The Baie de Somme

November 23, 2012

Yes, it is France again. Perhaps this love of France proves I’m not really a nerd. I do like the Somme estuary for all sorts of reasons. Some might see it as a flat, dreary landscape, but I see it as a wondrous panorama of light and gentle colours. We know just where to go for a pretty well guaranteed sighting of seals. We can enjoy the bird life both within the bird park at Parc du Marquenterre and more generally. We’ll enjoy wandering the estuary to find what we call ‘the sheep of the mud holes’. That was a poor bit of computer translation about the sheep that feed on the brackish lands around the Somme.

On the south side of the estuary, Saint Valery sur Somme is a lovely town whilst on the northern banks of the mighty Somme Le Crotoy is very pleasing.

We also found, on longer journeys, that the Baie de Somme services on the motorway, near Abbeville are a cut above the average UK service station. It’s a suitable distance after leaving the ferry at Calais for a break and a breather. Climb the distinctly ugly observation tower for a view over the whole Baie de Somme area.

But now to be a nerd again. An attraction rarely seen by me, for we tend to travel out of season, is the narrow gauge steam railway. It has two branches starting at Noyelle sur Mer (but a long way from the sea). One goes to Saint Valery and the other to Le Crotoy. The railway caters for fans of steam by having two trains starting at Noyelle at the same time. As they run more or less alongside each other, speeds are changed so that one train overtakes the other and then is overtaken again.

It’s a fantastic experience as we found in June 2004.

This is the train at Le Crotoy where we joined.

Two trains alongside each other at Noyelle.

I’m on the train on the left – it goes around quite a curve. The other train is chasing us.

They don’t seem to use the cleanest fuel – but we are being overtaken.

The two routes diverge.

I’ll commend it as a wonderful experience. It was much loved by children as well.

Genealogy or getting to some delightful places.

November 22, 2012

This is Macclesfield Forest Church in Cheshire on a cold February day in 2002. If you look carefully you can just make out my wife peering at a grave which probably records the passing of a Mottershead or Lomas – names of her ancestors.

But really, genealogy hardly matters. It’s a biological fact that I had 16 great great grandparents. Does knowing about them make me a different person?

And that, of course, makes discovering family history an ideal occupation. We can enjoy the thrill of the chase as we seek information about long dead ancestors secure in the knowledge that we can enjoy what we discover and it won’t actually matter much. I am an avidly keen genealogist. And if it gives you an excuse to visit beautiful places like Macclesfield Forest, then I’m all for it.

Inheriting the bug.

November 21, 2012

This is my dad at age 17 or 18. The year was 1937. He worked for EMI in Hayes, Middlesex. Just what he did, I don’t know but he always claimed he’d had his fill of television by the time World War II broke out.

I suppose this was a job rather than an interest so really it proves nothing much about the wide interests of my dad although he must have applied for the job.

To my Dad’s left there seems to be a high voltage area. The wire cage, the square plate on what look like insulators and a couple of discharge spheres all point to some rather sparky equipment.

But whatever this photo shows alters nothing. My dad was interested in all sorts. He was well versed with knowledge of plants and animals that you might see in the countryside. How I wish I’d learned more from him. He was enthusiastic about matters scientific and mathematical. In later years he took up industrial archaeology. But he was also well involved in community affairs. People mattered to him and he cared about society.

I’m proud to have inherited, or learned some of the characteristics he had.