Archive for October, 2014

Harold (Bob) Jones

October 21, 2014

Harold was the fifth child of my great grandparents, Robert Jones and Ada (nee) Allman). He was born 27 5 1905 in Sale, Cheshire and moved to 5 Gresham Villas, Hildenborough Kent, with his family before 1908. His siblings were Mabel, Harry, Ernest, Jessie (who was my grandmother), Stan and Lily. His half brother was Frederick Jones

Bob, as he was always known (perhaps there was too much confusion with his brother, Harry) married Rose Peacock who came from East Peckham, Kent. The marriage took place on 18th December 1937 at East Peckham Church.

Harold was a member of the Home Farm Cricket Team. he is seen here, standing 2nd from right.



Harold (Bob) and Rose Peacock on their wedding day – 18th December 1937. The couple lived at Forge Square, Leigh. Bob was a forester or gardener. Harold and Rose had a daughter, called Mary. Mary was buried on 25th September 1940. She had lived for just three hours.


The 1939 /1945 Leigh Special Constabulary. Harold is standing at the back 2nd from the left. Below is Harold’s Special Constable Duty Card.


Harold at 5 Forge Square, Leigh where he and Rose lived during their married life.


Harold’s death, was on 26 6 1983.  Rose lived until after 1987.

It saddens me that I never actually knew Harold and Rose.

A Record Album

October 20, 2014

Amongst things this happy nerd does is mount stands at fetes to support a charity and give talks, also to support a charity. The charity is actually a local museum which is 100% volunteer run. Being a museum it has a historical focus and to help create atmosphere, or at talks to give the audience a break from hearing me, I do play the old 78 rpm records on one of my period gramophones.

The record album is particularly useful since it houses the brittle and breakable records safely and securely.


Inevitably, I know nothing really of the origins of this album but there is what I guess is a retailer’s badge inside.


So presumably somebody from the Sussex coast was a first owner. My grandparents lived in Bexhill but they never had a gramophone so I know it had nothing to do with them.

Let’s see some of the records – the case holds 12 of them which could mean about an hour and a quarter of continuous play.

I have a taste for 1920s dance band music and here we have Shufflin, Along played by the Queen’s Dance Orchestra directed by Jack Hylton.


The sleeves in the album allow you to see the record labels. This one dates from 1922.


‘Looking for a Boy’ played by Phil Ohman, Victor Arden with their orchestra is a wonderful mix of Gershwin tunes played as a piano duet and recorded in 1926. You can click here to listen to this piece of music as it spins on one of my wind-ups. The sharp eyed might notice this isn’t a 78 RPM record. Oh no, it’s an 80 RPM!


This Paul Wightman record dates from 1923.

And let’s see an open album.


Great music – I think – in a lovely album.




Furlongs and the campsite

October 19, 2014

It was a couple of days after the funeral of my sister that we (my wife and I) visited Furlongs. It was an emotional visit for me because Furlongs was where we camped each year from 1954 for at least 15 years. A little ledge on the South Downs was, and remains, a very important place for me. I know I spent about 6 months of my life there, over those years. They were six summer months and six months which did a huge amount to form who I am. In fact it did much to form who we were as a family of which I am now the sole survivor. Actually, there are a couple of other family members who ‘camped’. One is my wife although she was a mere girlfriend back then. The other is my dad’s second wife. I won’t say that camp had quite such an impact on them but at least I can still share experiences with them.

And there are other survivors too. There’s a past boyfriend of my sister who spent some time with us one year and there are day visitors some of whom remain good friends of mine.

Anyway, this post is about my rather emotional return to the camp site we loved just those couple of days after that funeral.

We found a spot from where we could look down on ‘our’ ledge.


Sheep used to graze the field by day and that meant it was a smoother shorter grass sward generally with less shrubbery on the hillside beyond.

I, of course, made my way to the ledge.


And that’s me with our ‘classic’ view of Mount Caburn across the valley made by Glynde Reach. That view can just take me to a state of happiness as enjoyed by me as a child up to 60 years ago. I can point out changes but essentially, it looks very much the same.


I think my sister must have taken this 1954 picture. The four people I see in it are me, my mum, my dad and my brother.


There are no tents, of course, in 2014.

A zoom in on a passing train (a mile away in Glynde) reveals differences.


The most notable one would be the streetlamps along the main road. Back in the 50s and 60s it was a dark world at night. There was a spot where cars (occasional of course) came over Ranscombe Hill on the road where the headlights pointed straight at us at camp. For an instant it was possible to read a book by that light from a couple of miles away.

By the way, my dad attempted a photo of a train back in 1954.


Interestingly, 60 years on I can tell you this was a train going from London to Hastings without going in to Eastbourne. The make up of the carriages makes it clear to me.

This, then, was our ledge, where we camped each year and where I spent 6 months of my life.


I was pleased to find a September flowering scabious.


Another view of our camp ledge, this time from one of the arable fields.


Now Eric Ravilious produced a picture (Downs in Winter) from a similar spot which shows our ledge


I decided I’d match his 1934 picture with a 2014 Cambridge roller which was actually elsewhere in the same field. So the picture below is edited and has the roller added.


Well, the rollers have certainly got bigger in 80 years!


The Hen House

October 18, 2014

When we moved into our present house, back in 1976 there was a hen house out in the field.


Yes, that was it and pretty derelict it was. But when we were offered some poultry – a friend was moving abroad and needed to re-home their little flock – we decided we could renovate this old wreck and move it to a better location. And amazingly enough we did. You can’t see it in the picture, but this old shed like building was on wheels but it needed things we hadn’t got to move it – something with horse power so in rebuilding it we removed the wheels and built a solid base for it.

There’s one of the wheels after a fall of snow.


Snow was obviously the occasion for photo taking for here’s the hen house in new location with a few hens pecking at the food put out in the snow.



It lasted for years but after one storm we were unable to find all of the roof and that was basically the end of it.



Token Exchange

October 17, 2014

When I was a youngster, back in the early 1950s, most of my train journeys were on Southern Electric trains. Perhaps the special journey we made was from Three Bridges to Tonbridge Wells. That was behind one of those rather scary hissing monsters, the steam engine (yes, I was scared of them back then) and most of the journey was on a single track railway – trains in both directions used the same set of lines.

My dad was always keen to point out the staff that was used as a permission to travel on this line. Dad told me there was only one staff for each section of line and that the engine driver had to have the staff to be allowed to travel the line. That way, two trains couldn’t meet head on and have a nasty smash because only one of them could have the staff.

At the end of a section, which would be at a station with twin tracks, the staff was either handed to a signal man or to the driver of a waiting train. A new staff was given to our driver for the next section of single track.

Some single track lines used discs which were kept in leather pouches with a big loop handle instead of the staff. These were easier to swap with a signalman without stopping the train. I was able to witness this happening on the lovely Kent and East Sussex Railway just last month.


Here we can see the Wittersham Road signal man leaning rather frighteningly over his balcony. In his right hand he holds the token for the section of track onwards which he has been given by the driver of the diesel train waiting in the platform. One of our train’s footplate crew is holding the token for the section we have been on and the signal man is about to receive that on his left arm whilst our footplate person will receive the next token.


All went correctly. Our train went down the line to the right and passed through the station without stopping. Meanwhile the signal man will have taken the token he received to the driver of the diesel so that he could head off down the line we have been on.

On our return journey, later in the day, the signal man is receiving a token but makes it clear he hasn’t yet got the one for the next line. His arm is held behind his back. Our train must stop and wait.


But when the other train arrives, an exchange of a rather leisurely nature takes place.


There’s only one person in the cab of a diesel so a brief stop is made.

Now I am a self-confessed railway enthusiast but it is these aspects of operation that interest me as much as locos and trains. I hope some of you find them interesting. These days’ manual systems like this aren’t needed. Token exchange may still occur on some main lines but sights like those I’ve shown here are very much part of the heritage railway scene.

Shoreham – 1952 and 2001

October 16, 2014

Once again, I’m looking at a photo from 2001. This one shows Shoreham Harbour.


Well, it looks quite pleasing, with assorted pleasure craft idling away during the summer months. From time to time I ponder on just how much money is spent on pleasure craft which are rarely used.

But this time I’m also looking back another 49 years to 1952. My earliest memories come from that year and some of them certainly took place in the Shoreham area. My dad, who was a student at the time, had agreed to help with a scout camp which gave us a free holiday. And here’s the photo he took of Shoreham Harbour.


It is a totally different world, except that it was summer back then and the boats still seem to be idle. But apart from that all has changed. We can note that most of the boats today are much smaller and almost universally they are not made of wood. Most of these boats probably, originally, had some commercial purpose.

Another photo my dad took in 1952 was this one.


You might just notice the footbridge on the left of this photo. I remembered that bridge with a mixture of fear and love. I must have liked bridges even as a three year old! In 2001 I sought it out for a special photo. I didn’t actually have my dad’s photos then so I was not attempting to match it.


Good to see the old bridge still performing its task.

Church Norton

October 15, 2014

Since my sister died, I have been looking through older photos, just in case I find something that now seems interesting. And I do find such things, although they probably have nothing whatever to do with my sister. This is the Chapel of St Wilfrid, Church Norton. It’s a photo I took in 2001.


This was once the parish church for Selsey in Sussex. But in the 1860s, most of it was taken away and rebuilt much nearer the village centre, leaving just the old chancel as a chapel of ease. This remnant of old church is right on the edge of Pagham Harbour. This is an area of mud flats and salt marshes that keeps Bognor separate from Selsey Bill.


It’s an area rich in industrial and natural history with a long disused tramway, tide mills and plenty of bird life.


We visited this area on our way home after a family day at the good old Bluebell Railway.

Autumn Butterflies

October 14, 2014

I do like butterflies and wildlife generally. Here are a couple of butterflies seen last month in Sussex.


This little beauty is a speckled wood. According to what I know this one, dark brown with white spots should be the northern variant. Ones from the south are supposed  to have orange spots. Maybe that colour is in the eye of the beholder and maybe the camera does its best but doesn’t get it spot on. These butterflies could still be seen right to the end of September.

My other butterfly might show that colour rendition is never straight forward with a camera. These two photos are of the same individual.


Here we seem to have quite a lime green beast, supping nectar but its name – brimstone certainly implies yellow. And in another photo it looks much more yellow.


In both cases it could easily be mistaken for a leaf.

Lovely little creatures!

A Dry Valley

October 13, 2014

Once again I am going to sing the praises of my old geography teacher, Mr Cole. He taught at Ifield Grammar School in the 1960s. That was before that particular school decided they’d be better off without me – a decision, which in retrospect, was a superb one. My life flourished. Its life, I’m sorry to say, probably went downhill although as I was no longer a member, I couldn’t say.

But I will say that had they had more inspirational teachers then I might have been encouraged to work hard. Of course, Mr Cole wasn’t the only one, but he was the one that did most for me and my brother who had a more torrid time at the school than I did. I would love Mr Cole to read this and know that he made a difference. I’m guessing that he’d be in his mid-70s by now for he was a young teacher back then, tall and quite lanky and, I would say, a bit unsure of himself. He was given the duff classes – like mine and my brothers! I do hope he made a success of his career.

It was from Mr Cole that I learned about so much geography and today we look at a dry river valley quite near my home on Salisbury Plain.


Now we know, because Mr Cole taught us, it is a river valley because it has a V shaped cross section. Had it been formed by a glacier it would have had a U shape. We also know it is a youthful river valley because it is going downhill in zig-zags with interlocking spurs.

But chalk is permeable and this is chalk land. Water just seeps into chalk and you don’t get rivers flowing on this rock.

But you did once and thanks again to good old Mr Cole for explaining. During the ice age water in the chalk froze and so the rock did become impenetrable to water. If rain fell – and it did – it had to flow off the hill as a river. It was frozen for long enough for the abrasive quality of the flowing water to wear away this valley.

When the temperature rose and the ice in the chalk thawed out, the rainwater, once again just seeped into the chalk to emerge at the spring line where the chalk met clay.

The photo sums up Salisbury Plain. It is very limited in distinguishing features. Once upon a time travellers got lost, particularly in bad weather, and died trying to find their way. Villagers near the Plain planted distinctive clumps of trees on the hill nearest the village and this results in some descriptive names. Near us there’s a clump called Chirton Maggot and another called Marden Cowbag.

This picture dates from 2002 but it still looks the same, of course.

A Cimetière Chinoise

October 12, 2014

Were Chinese people involved in the Great War of 1914 – 18? The answer is yes, they were. After the battle of the Somme in 1916, Britain was so short of manpower that it effectively bribed Chinese people to come and do labouring jobs behind the lines. They were offered far more money than they could earn back home and they came in droves.

Although the Chinese people were never front line soldiers, quite a lot were killed or died of sickness. There are Chinese cemeteries in various places in Northern France.

This one, between Calais and St Omer and is called Ruminghem. It contains the bodies of some 75 Chinese men.


Now I may be more international in attitudes than some people. I like to remember that, in war, there are many losers. One loser is the side that gets defeated, of course, and they tend to be forgotten, but in The Great War both sides believed they had God on their side.

The Chinese worked for what proved to be the winning side in that war, but really there were only losers back then.

It was the year 2000 when we came across this graveyard, quite by chance. Like most people, I had no idea that the Chinese had been involved. I found it singularly moving to find graves of people so far from home brought down by a war which was nothing to do with them.


At least the graves are well kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Number 20546 was, of course, somebody’s son and may have been a husband and father as well. A waste of a life, I say. This is not the only Chinese cemetery. 20456 is one of 2000 of his countrymen who perished.