Archive for July, 2014

A happy nerd in Cornwall

July 31, 2014

St Agnes Railway Station

On our stay in Cornwall, earlier this month I failed to take a correct turn at one point and a bit later on we stopped in a layby to look at our map (no satnav for us. Satnav is great for getting to destinations but doesn’t point out the chance finds on the way there.) The map lost my interest for I was clearly face to face with a railway station of yore. Do you know, I hadn’t really taken in that an old railway line passed quite near own campsite in the Blue Hills although I had already noted the odd parapet of a railway bridge. The station we found appeared to be nowhere in particular but by pure chance we had found the station called St Agnes. Research proved that this was a late arrival on the railway map, opening as a line from roughly Truro to Newquay in 1905. The line passed within a mile or so of St Agnes – but too far away to be useful really and also had a station on the edge of Perranporth. The line closed in 1963. I don’t suppose it had ever been busy or made money, but then it was built to make sure a rival railway company had no excuse to build a line to Newquay – a town still served by a branch line from Par.

We returned to St Agnes Station to allow a nerd to be very happy.


The old GWR station building is in red brick under the roof with the hip end. I imagine the frontage – in station style is a recent addition. Apparently there was an abortive attempt to make some of this line a heritage railway. But whoever owns it now seems to be an enthusiast so maybe the Virol ads came quite recently. The platform and running lines were on the right side, between the building and the tree-topped bank.


More Virol ads on a lovely little building. I can close my eyes and imagine the 08.15 from Perranporth (summer Saturdays only) coming to rest at the platform and then continuing its journey to Truro, Par and London Paddington where it arrived at five to four in the afternoon. Somewhere en route it would have passed the 08.25 from Paddington making the return journey.

Inside the station there’s evidence of railway enthusiasm. There are station style lamps.


I’ll apologise for the Betty Boop poster!

There are relics and photos too.


There’s an LNER truck plate (I bet nothing like it ever reached St Agnes) and a photo of the station.

I have looked to the Cornwall Railway Society website at  for other photos.


This was the station forecourt in 1963 – the year of closure.


And here passengers board at the platform.

The big surprise for us was the presence of a diesel shunting loco on a raised plinth in the yard.


I think this is a Devonport shunter – certainly never a main line loco.

I was delighted to find this old station and the evidence of railway enthusiasm there. I know it wouldn’t be every holiday maker’s idea of a place to visit but it helped me to understand the area I was in.



Eric Ravilious – July

July 30, 2014

Now I loved that June picture, featuring the farm where I spent childhood summer holidays and it was with some trepidation that I turned to July. I was late making the change for our sojourn in Cornwall meant we were away from home.

But I had no cause for worry. The July picture was of another favourite childhood haunt at Newhaven.


Here we see a ferry from Dieppe arriving and entering the inner harbour. There’s some artistic licence here for Eric has made that harbour entrance narrower than it was in my memory.  Also, his inner harbour wall appears to show the end of the outer breakwater. His ferry, I notice, has two funnels. This picture dates from 1936 but ferries like that had gone by the time I knew the area which started 60 years ago in 1954.

But however far from reality it is, I instantly recognise the components which make up Newhaven. In fact, here’s a photo that dad took back in 1954 showing a similar view.


That ferry was the Brighton and standing looking on are me, my brother and my mum. The lighthouse in the foreground of the Ravilious picture is the one behind us, the spectators.  The other lighthouse Eric shows is a dot in the distance on dad’s photo, right out on the end of the outer breakwater. It’s half a kilometre out to sea – much further out than the little light on the wooden jetty on the left. That’s clear in Eric’s painting and my dad’s photo. The reality is that the two lighthouses that the Ravilious ferry is passing between are almost a third of a mile apart.

I hope this doesn’t spoil the Ravilious picture for people. I think it is a fantastic, if slightly fanciful rendition of a scene I knew well. I love the picture.


The beast of burden

July 29, 2014

I don’t often feature photos of me or my family. Today we get one and I am the beast of burden.


My burden, the most precious of loads, is my son carried in front and my daughter in the rucksack on my back. The location is the Wiltshire downland near Avebury and the year is 1981.

But do you know what – it’s that cardigan I’m wearing that I’ll talk about.

My mum found that cardigan and she felt certain she knew who it belonged to. At that time, our neighbours had a young lodger called Joe. Joe was a somewhat wild, but lovely, caring young man. He drove a rather flashy car – I can’t remember the make but he had equipped it with a horn that played the opening of the Colonel Bogey March. There were no words on this horn, of course, but most of us knew the version and happily sang out the somewhat rude words. Joe always announced his arrival home with a blast on that horn.

And mum felt sure that this eagle emblazoned cardy was definitely Joe’s. We all agreed with her. We’d all, we were sure, seen Joe wearing it. But Joe denied all knowledge of it. So mum had a problem in the shape of a cardy she had picked up and brought home and now with no knowledge of the rightful owner.

Eventually, it passed to my brother and we saw him wearing it from time to time. Then when he fell victim to cancer in 1980, it was passed to me. And I wore it, more in memory of my brother than of mum, although I always thought of Joe as well – when I wore this item.

Of course, I still have it, but a more fully developed midriff means I don’t actually wear it.

But hey! Didn’t I look a handsome chap back in 1981!

Old friends

July 28, 2014

I’m looking back to 1969 or 70 today and a bunch of old friends. We were all at college together in south east London and I think I took this photo on an area of parkland called Hilly Fields.


From left to right we have Nigel, Tony, Rog, Sue and Trev.

Sadly, I am not really in touch with any of them now. Tony died last year and I have seen Rog in recent years but he seems to have dropped off the radar at the moment. He ended up marrying Trev’s sister so when I saw Rog I got news of Trev (who I believe split up with Sue) but I haven’t seen Trev since college days.

I have seen Nigel just once in the past 44 years – enough to say he hadn’t changed – and I was fond of him when he was a student so that’s a positive comment.

Where are you all now?

Actually, I’m quite fond of the photo – just more than a silhouette and enough for me to recognise the features of the old friends.

Cape Cornwall

July 27, 2014

Here’s another post from our visit to Cornwall. This time it is Cape Cornwall.

There are only two places called Cape in the UK. The other is Cape Wrath in North West Scotland.

Cape Cornwall is but a few miles from Lands End and we have to admit that Lands End is a few hundred yards further west. But Lands End has been turned into a bit of a theme park. I prefer the quiet, non-commercial Cape Cornwall although I have been to Lands End a couple of times.


There is Lands End, as seen from Cape Cornwall.


A pretty bay just north of the Cape.


A nineteenth century mine chimney stands atop the cape. When the mine closed it was decided the chimney was a useful navigation aid for shipping and it was maintained. The area is now held by the National Trust.


There are natural rock gardens on top of Cape Cornwall.

But I, lover of bricks that I am, thought the top of the chimney, with the wonderful blue sky, was just beautiful.


There is much to enjoy at Cape Cornwall and you won’t be too troubled by the madding crowd. And if you happen to be a member of the National Trust then you can park for free.





Old crocks

July 26, 2014

I think we have looked at the veteran car rally before on this blog (click here).

It’s nothing like that this time. This is about crockery from the past, although still with us.


This was some of mother-in-law’s crockery and it is resting on one of her table cloths. It dates from the 1950s

I’ll let my wife say a bit here – really she was talking about 1950s shops in her then home town of Worcester.

At Lawley’s, the china shop, a new tea service was chosen. The design was Conway Spot, by Ridgeway, with a green band on the white china, spotted with white polka dots and edged with a fine gold line. We bought a few items at a time, as we could afford them, rather in the way that balls of knitting wool were put in a lay-by, to be purchased as needed.

When I first started dating my girlfriend I was in for a bit of a shock in terms of life style. In my household we never had matching crockery. We all had our own favourite plates, knives, forks and spoons although I, as the youngest, had to make do with what others didn’t want. Some items we just didn’t have. So, for example, in that Conway Spot set shown there is what I discovered was called a slop basin – for tipping tea dregs into before a second cup was poured. We never had one of them. But we did have large dinner plates, tea plates and cups and saucers. Mum used to bake cakes and these might have been put on a decorative plate – we had some. The glass item in the photo was a sugar bowl and we certainly had one of them for back in the 50s we all laced our tea with spoonsful of sugar.

Oddly, I don’t remember a table cloth in my home. At a very early stage I remember dad bought Formica and impact adhesive and covered the table which then became a wipe clean affair. Actually, early photos do show a table cloth sometimes.

By the way, my wife, always more dedicated than me put together a lovely book about her childhood and I have nabbed photo and paragraph about it from that.


Great Granny’s early home

July 25, 2014

Great Granny Hall was born in St Just. Her father was a tin miner out in these far west parts of Cornwall and he chanced to be in St Just, with his wife, in 1848 when Great Granny was born. Her name then was Grace Williams.

We are always cautious when talking about the homes of miners. It would be easy to say they were still in St Just in 1851 but that would imply we knew they’d been there in the intervening three years since Grace was born. We’d better just say that they were in St Just at the time of the 1851 census.

The family lived on Chapel Street and it is the first house listed. So we reckon it was this one.


That’s the somewhat yellow looking dwelling between the white car and the white van.

There is clearly a chapel at the end of the street. What isn’t clear is that immediately to the left of what we think was where Grace lived there is another former chapel.

Let’s look up the street the other way.


The other chapel is the tall building just to the right of the red Landrover.

It’s hard, now, to imagine streets like this with the sound of miners’ boots walking along and no doubt with the chatter of children. But these cottages were the homes of miners and that was what most of the working men did back in 1851.

The waggoners

July 24, 2014

Camp for us, when we were children meant all sorts of things. The word ‘camp’ defined, for us, a location and a way of life. It was a life of simplicity, far from the madding crowd. It was a life style, set against a backdrop of the South Downs that we all enjoyed.

And here are four of the family enjoying a rest on a waggon on our home farm.


The year is 1958 when my dad first tried colour.

My mother is on the left and on the right we have my sister, me and my brother. I’d have been 9 at the time. My brother was 11 and my sister would have been close on 14. Dad is not in the picture. He was pressing the shutter on the camera.

The waggon has clearly brought harvest to the barn and I dare say it was all pitchforked through that high door. Back then an awful lot of crop handling was done manually.

The barn is clearly flint built. Those flints must have taken some finding but they produce a beautiful building. The roof material has probably replaced thatch at some date.

The barn and yard made a wonderful playground for me and my brother. There was much to enjoy and a waggon, with imagination, was whatever we wanted it to be.

Happy memories!


More Cornish Wildlife

July 23, 2014

Yes, we recently spent some time in Cornwall and we have already seen the fabulous silver studded blue butterflies on this site.

We camped between St Agnes and Perranporth. It was very close to the wild and rugged cliffs of the North Cornwall coast. This is an area of much variety. The underlying rock changes from place to place and with it the plants that grow and the animals that live there. But added to this there are the old spoil tips of the mining industry. Mostly these have reverted to nature but the change in minerals and soil adds even more variety to plant and animal life.

On an area actually at the perimeter of the little Perranporth air field we spotted this moth having already watched the sun go down over the sea.


This was quite a large and hairy moth and I had no idea what it was. Moths are singularly hard to identify because of the sheer number of them. Eventually I decided it might be a canary shouldered thorn but I was by no means 100% certain so I buzzed off an email, with photo, to the Cornwall Moth Group.

The reply was near instant.

Thank you for the picture and info.
I don’t think it’s a Canary-shouldered Thorn, as all the Thorns (including Canary-shouldered) have scalloped edges to the wings and they don’t have those furry legs.
I believe it’s a freshly-emerged female Drinker Moth (possibly still drying its wings which would explain the “butterfly” position).

So three cheers for the Cornwall Moth Group who have identified this moth for me. It’s a drinker moth – it’s female and has probably only just emerged.

I find it really worthwhile asking people on the web. The world is a wonderfully helpful place. This Cornish Moth Group asked for specific information which I supplied and I sent the picture as well.

Obviously by suggesting what it may be, albeit wrongly, I gave an indication that I had tried to identify it. I really do think you should try to identify a species first.

Hopefully, that’s one more moth I’ll identify myself if ever I see one again.


Abraham Rathbone Fisher

July 23, 2014

It proved wonderful for genealogy to have a great grandfather with the middle name of Rathbone. We knew the Fisher family came from the Gawsworth area of Cheshire and when we found Rathbone graves in the churchyard there we recorded them because of that middle name of Rathbone. Later research proved that Rathbones were direct ancestors.

Abraham was born in 1871 in Ardwick which is now a part of Manchester. His Gawsworth born father had become a policeman in Manchester. In 1871 he was a Constable but he rose through the ranks as young Abraham grew up and by 1891 he was an Inspector.

Abraham was a postman by 1891 and in 1893 he married Mary Ann (always known as Polly) Robinson. They were able to acquire a ‘sell everything’ shop in Macclesfield. It was right next door to the Flowerpot Inn.

This was probably a bad thing, for Abraham was fond of drink and, we gather, he spent far too much time and money at The Flowerpot.

A photo found in a book about old Macclesfield seems appropriate.


Polly, in the white apron stands outside their home and shop. Abraham leans on the nearer window of The Flowerpot. As the caption says, pub and cottages have all gone now and a bigger pub has been built.

A good piece of luck to come across this picture. Even better that an aunt was able to positively identify the people.