Archive for November, 2013

On the Buses

November 20, 2013

My Life in Tickets (13)

Well actually, the ticket here is not one of mine. In fact it was given to me less than a month ago. But it brings back memories of the 1950s.

Back in those days – and until much more recently (even now) in some area, buses had a crew of two people. The driver had the job of driving and a conductor was in charge of the passengers and the issuing of tickets. Conductors were often called clippies and this ticket explains why.


Now do you remember the conductor (or maybe a conductress, with a rack of tickets? When you proffered your fare, they selected the appropriate ticket and nibbled a hole in it with a pair of clippers. We are, of course, looking at both sides of the same ticket at once here.

I should say that the passenger had bought a ticket which would take him or her to stage 14. I think it cost 5d for the journey.

Now this was a central London bus on route 9 from Mortlake to Liverpool Street. This wasn’t my territory for I lived in Sussex at the very edge of the London Transport territory. The bus I recall was service 426 which ran from Horley to Crawley via a devious route which took it past my house door. It used a venerable old bus until the service was discontinued and I suspect that by then the tickets came from the handle winding machines that conductors had.

As a child I loved playing bus conductor. I’d line up the chairs we had into the kind of rows you got on a bus and persuade anyone to be passengers. My dad had made me a ticket rack and old tickets could always be found. I could happily call, ‘hold on tight please’, ring the imaginary bell and then sell tickets (no money exchanged of course) to my passengers.

I could ring the bell to tell the driver to stop at the next location and even help my passengers off the bus.

It sounds a simple game, but I loved it!

Ladies Bridge

November 19, 2013

Ladies Bridge carries a farm track over the Kennet and Avon Canal near the village of Wilcot. To set the scene, this is a view from Woodborough Hill which I took back in 2005.


The bridge is roughly central and as we see it is set in lovely rolling countryside. The back drop is formed by the chalk hills of Salisbury Plain and we are looking across the Vale of Pewsey.

Back in the 1970s, we owned a small boat for a short while. It was really something of a nightmare, but we did get to Ladies Bridge in it once.


We can see from here that this bridge is somewhat ornate for a canal bridge. There is a reason.

The local land owner at the time the canal was dug, Lady Sussanah Wroughton, 1793, objected to having a commercial canal cut through her land. Her price was 500.00 in cash, the ornamentation of this bridge, and landscaping of the canal to the east into an ornamental lake. The bridge is built in ashlar and rusticated stonework, with decorative carving and balustrades.

My most recent passage under the bridge was in 2009 on a wonderful day out provided by my family to celebrate a significant birthday



More than two hundred years on we have a little treasure of a bridge, well off the highways of Wiltshire. Magnificent!

Kempton Steam Museum

November 18, 2013

A Nerd’s Day Out

Honest, it wasn’t my idea that we went to the Kempton Steam Museum. It was brother-in law’s scheme and so, together with our ever loyal wives we made up a foursome.

We’d better start with the ‘ticket’. This is a singularly large one because it doubles up as a clock card you can use in the original workers clocking in machine.


So this is the ticket – all 30 cm long of it and it is double sided.The clocking in part took me back more than forty years to student days. Each year I got a summer holiday job and sometimes this meant using a clocking in card. Are such things still in use? I do not know.

Obviously the ticket also has information – very useful information which can help you to make the most of the museum.

The engine hall is a beautiful building in its own right – for those that love the water works style, for this museum was a Metropolitan Water Board pumping station, sending water from Kempton in south west London to ‘The Northern Heights’ of London – places like Hampstead.

It houses two simply enormous steam engines for doing the work and had space in the middle for a third which was never built. Technology changed and a couple of much smaller and more efficient steam turbine pumps were installed.

By steam engine standards, the triple expansion engines are not old at something around the age of 85 years. One is restored to working order and the other is available for guided tours


With a quick look at the magnificent building, on a glorious November day, let’s take a look inside at the magnificent triple expansion steam engines.


This is the working engine (not actually running at this instant) and the size of it can be gauged from the people. See that engineer with green overalls on the second tier? He really gives the place scale. And note, we can’t see the bottom of it in this shot.

Apparently, the engines are more or less identical to the marine engines in the Titanic. When you see the size of them, you’d wonder how the ship ever floated at all with two such engines to power it. We gathered that, from time to time the engine hall is converted into the Titanic engine room for film sequences.

Maybe that was what was going on today.

Here, a couple of white suited guides/engineers/were ready to set the auxiliary little engine into motion. The little engine can start the main one turning. It can’t start its self.


And a film crew were recording every action.


That wheel controlled steam flow to the small engine and once that was running smoothly the gears were engaged to start the big engine turning.


You can click here to see a video of this happening.

When the engine has been able to create a bit of a vacuum, the main engine can power itself and it runs freely and beautifully.

You can click here to see the engine running.

It was last used for its real water pumping purpose in 1980.

But it turns again in preservation and the sights sounds and smells are all there. Look, there is even a puff of escaping steam.


I will, no doubt, have further posts about this museum and a nerd’s day out.

A bit of railwayana

November 17, 2013

Back in the early 60s, when I was a train spotter, I felt a compelling need to own a bit of engine. Well ideally, I’d have liked a whole engine of my choice, but that was a mere whim. However, by saving up (I think) twelve shillings, I was able to purchase a brass works place straight from Gorton works where the loco was being cut up. What I got was hardly from my first choice of locos, but beggars can’t be choosers always, and I had a reasonable bargain, albeit I had quite a row, as I recall, over postage charges which had not been made clear in advance. I can’t remember the outcome, but I’m not sure that I ever paid.

I was a bit disappointed with what arrived, not only because it was from a loco, the like of which I had never seen, but also because it had been damaged when removed from the engine. Shame!

But you grow to love things and now, more than fifty years on, I’m pleased, still, to have a bit of loco.


So, my engine was built by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow and it was built in 1919. But what kind of loco was it. Fortunately, Gorton works had attached a label.


So there’s all the info. It came off engine number 63845 which was a class O4 engine. They had originally been designed by Robinson for the Great Central Railway but during the First World War the design had been adopted as a standard and they were built in large numbers for war service both at home and overseas. 63845 was built after the war ended so perhaps it didn’t see any overseas service. Like many of the engines, it was bought from the War Department by the Great Central Railway which became a part of the London and North Eastern Railway in 1923. It earned its keep hauling heavy freight trains in the midlands and north.

As a boy in the south, these locos were never seen by me and my Ian Allen books confirm this.


There we have a whole page without a single ‘cop’ – just a few known scrapped locos crossed out. 63845 was listed in this 1960 edition but by 1962 she’d vanished from the lists having been withdrawn, cut up and having a works plate sold to me.

Whilst writing this page, I thought I ought to find a picture of a class O4 so I looked on the web. Amazingly, I found a picture of the very engine, for sale cheaply on Ebay so I now own a photo of the engine as well.


So there we have 63845, probably at the end of her life, just before being cut up – it was taken at Gorton and looks to be minus a cylinder end. I just think it’s a really lucky fluke that I found the picture.

Visitors at Camp

November 16, 2013

For much of the year, visitors were a rarity when I was a child. But for three weeks of the year, when we were camping, visitors came in droves. They must have found something a bit special about this slightly eccentric family who got themselves dumped on a remote ledge on the South Downs, way away from anything in the way of services or facilities.

When I look at photos from 1954, I see we had visitors from near and far and today I shall show you near ones.


Here we see the main living tent. Outside it is a canvas wash basin and I assume my dad has hung up a shaving mirror above it. Next to the bowl is a 2 gallon water bottle which we could take a couple of hundred yards to a tap. That bottle was a favourite of mine for it had a comfy handle. Others had little more than a wire handle and it cut into hands. I wrapped grass around them to make them more comfortable.

But what about the people? The shadowy figure, sitting at the table in the tent is my mum and I’m the little lad at the left. Behind me is my Great Aunt Nellie who lived about a mile from where we camped. She appears to have a little bunch of wild flowers. Surely she didn’t bring them as a gift for us? She was such a cheerful old soul, with much not to be cheerful about. Her own husband, Frank, had died not much more than a year previously. Her daughter in law had died in 1951 and old Nellie became surrogate mum for a couple of teenage lads and a younger grandson. It’s that younger grandson, Dougie, who is (I think) the middle lad. I’m sorry to have lost touch with Dougie, my second cousin, but I believe he lives in the Hailsham area of East Sussex. And I’m not certain he is the lad in the middle because he doesn’t look to be five years older than the third boy. The one on the right, is my brother, Robin. I’m really sorry to have lost touch with him, but that’s because he died, far too young, back in 1980. He’s now been dead for longer than he was ever alive.

My dad did manage some quite charming photos.

The Woody Bay Railway

November 15, 2013

The Woody Bay Railway is a short section (or was in 2008) of preserved/reconstructed railway in North Devon.

Let’s have a bit of history. The Lynton and Barnstaple Railway opened in 1898. It was a narrow gauge line but built to quite exacting standards. It was hoped it would open up the area it served and, indeed, it did. But it did so at the expense of the shareholders and in 1935 the then owners, The Southern Railway, closed the line.

The line had generated much affection with its handsome steam locos and neat little carriages but all were swept away – lost and gone forever.

Or maybe not forever. The preservation era dawned and eventually, in 2006, about a mile of track was laid from Woody Bay Station. We visited in August 2008.


Station sign and gradient post look to date from the Southern Railway era.



The little loco and carriages are actually nearly brand new.

The train in Woody Bay Station


Old photos of the line look very similar to this view.


The works plate on the loco – built in 2005.


Works plate on an old Lynton and Barnstaple truck.

It’s a lovely little line and plans are to extend it. Should you plan to visit the bay that the station is named for, it is well worth it, but it is more than a mile and a half from the station and the station is about 1000 feet above sea level.

Four Fisher men

November 14, 2013

Meet the ancestors.

Today we have a four in one ‘meet the ancestors’ page. These are ancestors of my wife and they have the surname Fisher

Four generations of Fisher men

Four generations of Fisher men

On the left we have James Fisher who had the nickname of Feathers. James was born in 1845 in Gawsworth in Cheshire. In 1863 he married Maria Mottershead and the couple went on to have five children. James became a member of the Manchester Police Force. He rose to the rank of Inspector before retiring, back to Gawsworth. In 1911 he styled himself a farmer. He lived until 1927, two years after this photo was taken.

On the right hand side we have James’s son, Abraham Rathbone Fisher – and what a boon that middle name of Rathbone was when researching the family. Abraham Rathbone Fisher sounds like a posh name, but it seems Abraham, nominally a postman, liked the insides of pubs. He was born in 1871 and married Mary Ann Robinson in 1893. They had three children.

One of his sons, James (again), is sitting in the middle.

James was my wife’s grandfather and he was born in 1893. In 1911 he was a draper’s assistant, but The First World War came along  – a war he came through with some distinction. He married Doris Shaw in 1921 and in 1923 they had Douglas, the little lad on his knee in the photo.

Douglas served with the RAF in World War two as a radio operator. He was my wife’s father. Sadly, he died much too young in the 1960s

Photos like this one help me to connect with the past. I knew both Douglas and his father, James. Here we see that they knew the older James, born in 1845, when Queen Victoria was still quite freshly on the throne. Somehow it brings me in contact with 1845 – not that James would have remembered that year. Maybe, though, he visited the Great Exhibition in 1851. The Fishers had a small farm so may have been able to afford a trip to such a special event.

Crested Commemorative Ware

November 13, 2013

I do not (repeat not) collect crested commemorative ware. However, from time to time bits of it come my way, often from my sister who trades in antiques and collectables. She finds pieces marked with places that have featured in my life and as such I value and treasure them. Today I am going to look at one piece – this one.


This remarkably ugly old two toothed crone is transfer printed with a statue of King Alfred, Pewsey. My place of employment, for all but forty years was in Pewsey. Quite why this lady was chosen for a Pewsey item, I don’t know.  Similar bonneted ladies are used to represent Mother Shipton and a Welsh lady, but they don’t have the two teeth. Of course, these crested items were made in a huge variety of shapes and the actual model has no connection with the place.

But this one has a bonus. It is double sided.


The other side has a far more homely face as well as information about the actual statue in Pewsey (erected to mark the coronation of George V in 1911) and about Alfred himself.

Ah yes. This piece has damage – just as it had when given to me.

The torso is bell shaped and it probably should have a clapper to allow it to ring. If so, it is missing and in any case with the chip and crack it wouldn’t ring well.

This is Arcadian Ware from Stoke on Trent.


I’m no expert, but I believe collectors regard Arcadian as inferior to Goss.

As ever, cash value (which must be close to nil in this case) just doesn’t bother me. I like the ugly old crone and I am pleased to have this charming little piece – and it was a gift from my sister.

Toberonochy and the island of Luing

November 12, 2013

It was summer 2009. We were camping near Oban. It was raining hard and persistently. So what do you do? You decide to visit the slate islands. I won’t say it turned into good weather, but it dried up and those islands are fantastic.

From Oban you cross a bridge over a little bit of the Atlantic Ocean to reach the island of Seil. You drive south through that island (it is a lovely place) until you reach Cuan. A ferry for three cars can take you across Cuan sound to the island of Luing (pronounced, more or less as ling.

The weather did not look all that auspicious as we sat in the car on the ferry.


Luing has roads and road signs.


Toberonochy and Cullipool are the two main places.


I encountered a bull by an electricity pole. I couldn’t place the breed at the time but it is, in fact, a luing – a breed specific to this island.

The whole island was lovely.

Kilchatten, more or less in the middle of the island has the school and the church we see here.


Inside is a lectern from Latvia.


The locals had done their best to save the crew of a Latvian ship which was wrecked in 1936. Sadly, men died and are buried on the island. Graves are at The Old Church which is a ruin with ancient carvings of boats.


And here’s one of the Latvian burials.


And so to Toberonochy – a slate quarrying village of glorious prettiness.


The village is made up of these terraces of little cottages.


And what glorious scenery.

We visited the flower show where we were made to feel like honoured guests.


We had a grand day on a delightful set of islands.

Remembrance – WW Kesby

November 11, 2013

There are so many to remember, so how can I pick on one? It’s simple. He’s a relative albeit not a close one.

William Walter Kesby (Masters)

WW is William Walter Kesby born in Tenterden in 1887 and baptised there on 19th Dec 1888 He was the son of Harriet Janetta Kesby (or Janetta Harriet). His father is not known.

Young William’s grandfather was George Kesby, a brother of Frederick Charles Kesby (My Great Great grandfather). William Walter would not really have known his grandfather for old George died in 1889

Harriet Kesby had an earlier son Edward James Kesby baptised in Tenterden in on 29 Nov. 1883 (This was from information obtained from a researcher at Tenterden Museum.

Harriet married Zion Masters in Aug 1888. William Walter may have been his son, but we do not know this.

In 1891 William Walter was living with Zion and his mother, Harriet at Smallhythe Street, Tenterden, along with the first child of the marriage, one year old Joseph. Zion worked as an agricultural labourer at this time.

In 1901 the family had moved back into Tenterden. William, who was aged 13 was working as an office boy. Young Joseph seems to have vanished, but Harriet and Zion had three other children, Charles, who had been born in 1893 at Rolvenden, and Marion and Emily, born in 1896 and 1900 at Zion’s home village of Smallhythe.

Next, we move to 1913, when William, a 26 year old Grocers Porter of Bryon Rd, Margate, Kent, married Alice Price on 26th Dec in Thanet, Kent. His “father” Zion Kesby was given as deceased although this may be incorrect as according to a headstone in  Tenterden churchyard Zion Masters died in 1940.

William and Alice’s son Walter F Kesby was born in 1914 and died in 1916 in Wandsworth. (BDM)

Alice, subsequently, had a daughter in 1918 who although given the surname Kesby was not. No father is mentioned on her birth certificate.

We do not know when William signed up for the war –  for the next we know is that Lance Corporal W W Kesby of the East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) was killed in action on 18th June 1915.

W W Kesby is buried on the outskirts of Ieper – or in French, Ypres – or as the British troops called it – Wipers. His cemetery has a mixed language name too being the Pottize Chateau Wood cemetery.



The information on the Commonwealth war graves web site gives no next of kin and no age for WW but we know that he was about 28 at the time of his death.