Archive for April, 2015

Duke of Gloucester

April 30, 2015

THE Duke of Gloucester is a cousin to Queen Elizabeth II, but I’m afraid I have no connection with him and know very little about him. This post is about a steam locomotive named after him and seems to be known without a ‘the’ in front of Duke of Gloucester. The Duke was the last ever express passenger steam loco built for British Railways. It was turned out of the works at Crewe in 1954 and was not particularly successful. The Duke was the only loco built to that particular design and was withdrawn from active service after only eight years. Bits of the Duke were removed for display in the Science Museum. The bulk of the engine languished in Dai Woodham’s scrapyard until 1974. In getting the engine back into running order, faults in original manufacture were found. These were rectified and other improvements made. The restored loco was transformed, in terms of performance, from its earlier days. It has proved a competent and popular loco on special trains. We saw it in 2006 when some close relatives were hauled by the loco to Bristol. image002Here she (locos are always she, even if named after a Duke) is rounding the curve into Temple Meads, the main station in the West Country city. image004 The Duke made for a handsome sight on arrival. image006 Drawn up in the station. The Duke could take a breather. It was the end of November and well into darkness when The Duke paused at Trowbridge on the return trip. There looks to be steam to spare. image008 That was a special day and starred a special engine.

The Move to Ifield

April 29, 2015

We had lived in an utterly remote area near Wadhurst. Then, in 1949, the owner wanted his house empty and we had to move. The new home was in a village called Ifield.

I suspect my dad hated it. The house at Ifield may not have been much above 40 years old when we moved there, but it was run down and inconvenient in most respects. Worse, it had but a limited garden and the views from the house were restricted. From this house, which was called Crosshill, we looked across the road to other similar houses. Out the back we looked down our garden and behind it there was a wooden factory building. However, the chances are my mum was happier. From Beals Oak to Wadhurst had been a three mile walk so shopping was a major expedition. Here, the local shop was just across the road and it was only two miles to the local small town of Crawley. Had we needed them we could have visited the local pub – less than 100 yards away – and the petrol station which was even closer. But our family were not pub users and the idea of ordinary people owning cars was something that was well into the future.

The house had three bedrooms, inconveniently arranged with one room leading off another. There was no bathroom and the toilet was in an outhouse. I was but ten months old when we moved to this house which was to be my home for the rest of my childhood.

Ifield had a community association and in January 1950 they held a children’s party in Saint Margaret’s Hall, a couple of hundred yards up the road. I was too young to go to this – barely more than a year old – but Paula and Robin went and are captured in a press photo. I love this photo for it shows that in the bleak and austere days – there was still rationing – children could enjoy fun.


Sister, Paula is the girl in the centre of this photo. Robin, my brother is half hidden on this side of her.


The History of Draughts in Cornwall

April 28, 2015

Back in September 2013 I wrote a blog about my wife’s great uncle by marriage, Wilfred Welch Piper. He was once featured in a Cornish newspaper as a leading draughts player in that south west county of England.

A chap called John Gillbard came across that piece of mine and got in touch. John was writing a book on the history of draughts in Cornwall and wondered if we had any more. The answer was a big yes, for we had Wilfred’ scrapbook in which he had kept many news items about draughts players and matches in Cornwall. John has now finished his book and has kindly sent us a copy.


The book covers the period from the 1800s to 2015. John’s view is that the game is now in its death throes as far as being a truly competitive activity is concerned. That’s a shame, of course, but younger people do tend to like to have a screen in front of them and maybe a bit of action in their games.

I’m pleased to say that my wife’s relatives do appear in the book.


Locksands Life is pleased to have helped bring about this book which offers insight into a little facet of West Country history.


The Market Cross

April 27, 2015

My local town is, and has been for close on 45 years, Devizes in Wiltshire. When I drove into the Market Place the other day I was shocked by a structure I didn’t, at first, recognise. But then I was driving and concentrating on other traffic and pedestrians using the crossing.

I was able to park the car and get a photograph.


It proved to be the Market Cross under wraps. Presumably it is getting a bit of a spruce up.

Having lived in the area for 35 years I take these things for granted but I have found a photo I took of some classic cars around the Market Cross on a very wet day in May 2004.


You might notice there’s a metal plaque on the cross. That tells the tale of Ruth Pierce.

This extract is from A History Military and Municipal of the Ancient Borough of The Devizes, by James Waylen. 1859. It tells the tale of Ruth’s attempt to be dishonest and her rapid demise.


So let that be a lesson to one and all!

A bit of garden archaeology

April 26, 2015

We don’t find much in our garden but this year my wife found a glass shard – clearly part of a bottle with just enough on it to be interesting.


There’s a large H at the top of the piece of glass which measures about four and a half centimetres from top to bottom. This H looks as though it must be the first letter of (perhaps) a company name which ran around the bottle’s shoulder.

Below and running straight around the curve of the bottles we have the letters CHE.


This could be the beginning of all sorts of things. Perhaps the company was in Cheam or Cheltenham, for example, or maybe they were a chemist.

Has anyone out there any ideas?

Outer London Geese

April 25, 2015

I’m not a great lover of big cities and their suburbs. I much prefer open spaces and hilltops. But my daughter lives in Bexleyheath in south east London so of course we visit to see her and the grandchildren.

There’s a large area of parkland nearby. It’s called Danson Park. I wouldn’t rate it as one of the great beauty spots of England but it does offer open space and a chance to see some wild or semi-wild life. It almost goes without saying that one of the commonest birds is the green parakeet. For people in the UK unaware of it, escapee birds have made the parks of London and surrounding areas their homes. Although they are antipodean in origin, they seem to thrive in the extra couple of degrees of warmth the city provides. Their parrot like squawks are loud enough to be heard over the ever present rumble of road traffic.

Parakeets are not the only immigrant birds we find in Danson Park. In a walk around the lake I saw three species of goose and two of them originate from elsewhere.

But let’s start with a goose that is native to Britain and Europe – the greylag goose, ancestor of most of the domesticated geese we might see in this country. This one, on the large, multi-function lake at Danson Park was perched on the structure of a water basketball net.


Now I call that a gloriously handsome bird and I must disagree with a statement on the RSPB website which reads:

 In many parts of the UK it has been re-established by releasing birds in suitable areas, but the resulting flocks (often mixed with Canada geese) found around gravel pits, lakes and reservoirs all year round in southern Britain tend to be semi-tame and uninspiring.

Is that bird uninspiring? I think not. I was inspired to get a photo of it. OK, the surroundings might not inspire like areas of Scotland where truly wild greylags are found, but the bird itself is still gorgeous.

I like Canada geese too. It is very much an incomer from North America and was probably introduced deliberately. It spread its wings to thrive in all parts ofthe UK except the north of Scotland. Some regard it as a nuisance. But I see them as delightful.


For most people, they must be the most commonly seen goose.

My third goose is another incomer which, I gather, breeds in Bexleyheath. It’s an Egyptian goose.

It wasn’t that close to me, being on the island in the lake. The lovely sunshine made it seem a bit of a silhouette, but I was certain I didn’t recognise it. So I set the camera to maximum zoom, pointed and pressed the shutter in the hope I could use a photo to identify the bird. It’s funny how the camera can sometimes see better than the naked eye.


That’s the photo as taken but I can digitally zoom in for a blog post which only uses about 1800 pixels for the main picture.


Those pale pink legs, pinkish back and large dark eye patch were the giveaways for identification. Mind you, I cheated when trying to identify it. I used google images and typed goose Danson Park. The first image was of a bird of this type – and it was far sharper and clearer than mine.

Other birds on the lake included mallards, coots, moorhens, mute swans, black headed gulls and larger gulls not seen clearly enough to be certain about. It all made for a good learning experience for grandson.

Lost siblings

April 24, 2015

There aren’t many days go past when you don’t think of family members who have died. Recently I got in touch with a new family member – quite a distant half third cousin – and I so wanted to tell my sister about this contact and show photos she sent. But of course, my sister died last year so it can’t be done. Oddly, I don’t feel the same need to share this with my brother. It is 35 years since he died and genealogy wasn’t on the agenda back then. But things happen most days and the thought comes that I might tell one of them about it. So let’s honour those departed siblings today with a picture of them from before my own birth. This photo was taken in 1947. It was taken, of course, by my Dad. image002 The Lloyd loom settee had clearly been moved into the garden at the family home in Wadhurst, Sussex, which was where I was born. Paula, my sister, looks happy to have a brother. He had been born in what is recalled as an awful winter with all sorts of problems, but he looks to have thrived on it and is clearly showing an interest in the world. I remember that settee with affection, too. My dad didn’t quite approve of settees. He claimed that people didn’t use them by choice and that if offered a chance to sit anywhere, they always took a single seater chair. It got replaced by two arm chairs. But of course nothing can replace the brother and sister. Please don’t get any idea that I live a life of sadness though. I don’t. My memory is good and I have lots of good memories. I’ve known my wife for the vast bulk of my life so I have someone I can share most things with. I have no thoughts of having been dealt a lousy hand in life. I think I’ve had a great one.

Welcome to your new home

April 23, 2015

We moved to our current home in 1976 – 39 years ago. I think some people thought we were mad to take on a very run down, albeit post World War 2 house and about 4 acres of land with a neighbour who had recently been involved in blocking access. But we had by-passed him and had no worries on that score, the house was basically sound and we approached the acres with enthusiasm.

Friends Brian and Sheila were certainly supportive and they baked and decorated a cake for us.


We planned to live the god life of self-sufficiency and some of our plans featured on the cake. We certainly planned to keep poultry, and very soon we had our first little flock. Whether we had reckoned on keeping sheep, I can’t remember, but we certainly did keep them and there are still sheep on our field, but these days they belong to a friend. We also planned to grow Christmas trees as a cash crop and that never did work out well for the livestock had too much of a taste for the succulent, tender, new shoots of the conifer trees. Having said that, we have the one that got away and now stands thirty or more feet tall and we haven’t given up on the idea of doing Christmas trees again.

The good life had been in operation before we moved and continued. There was a time when we made all our own bread and certainly the loaves by the cake are homemade ones.

The make do life continues. I note the table cloth which, if memory serves me right was sold as a bed spread. Thirty nine years on we still have and use it. There’s a teapot stand in the frame as well. Yes, we still have that although it isn’t much used. Teapot makers seem to have lost the art of making non-drip spouts so we tend to use a tray which catches the drips these days.

The table, under the cloth is definitely the one we still use. We have only had the one table throughout our 44 years of married life. The chairs, though, have changed. The originals we had, basic 1970 style seats, did not survive the rough and tumble of normal life. We replaced them with much sturdier examples.

Fashions may come and go, but we’ll continue to use what we have and like.

Oh yes. We still have the friends to but it gets harder to see them for we are all involved with children and grandchildren these days.

A Hole Punch

April 22, 2015

I do like older mechanical items and today I’m looking at a hole punch I have. I know almost nothing about its origins or age. Maybe somebody can tell me more.


The punch is made of pressed steel mounted on a wooden base. The maker’s mark appears to be a transfer on the base.


It is well worn, but clearly says East-Light in front of a rising sun emblem.

My best bet is that this dates from the 1940s or early 1950s so I estimate it at 60 plus years old. It still works and to prove it here’s a page it just punched.


Now where do those little discs of cut out paper go? There must be storage space in the wood base and at the back of the hole punch there’s an openable trap door.


This can be rotated around the screw that holds it in place.


And there we see the little spout for tipping out the waste.

In terms of use, it doesn’t compare well against modern ones. It has no arm which can be set to ensure your holes are in the right place and it has no pointer to mark the centre between the two punches. I reckon these disadvantages make it very much a museum piece rather than a strictly useful item.

Gascony Cattle

April 21, 2015

Time for a train

No, I’m not talking about a train time nor even a timetable although I could recall table 28 in the Southern Region timetable of the early 1960s which covered services between London and the Sussex coast. For me that timetable was a totally straight forward affair but looking back with the benefit of a bit of age and (I hope) just a tad of wisdom, I can imagine it was an utter nightmare for most people.

But no, I just feel it is quite some time since I saw any kind of train on my blog and I decided it was time for one and here it is.


People vaguely in the know will recognise that this is no English train. This is in France and behind the train we see snow capped Pyrenees mountains so we are not that far from Spain. I have this photo captioned simply as ‘near Momtgaillard’.

Noe I know absolutely nothing about French trains but I will point out that this train is what gets called articulated. The three carriages have just four sets of wheels. And with that I’ll let the train pass and return to what I was doing at the time in April 2008. That was photographing cows.


These handsome beasts are Gascony cattle. They looked at me, looking at them.


They didn’t think much of me. They were off.


The real reason for departrure followed behind them. They clearly didn’t fancy the bull.