Posts Tagged ‘1970s’

Waterwheels in West Wiltshire and Somerset

August 2, 2016

We associate water wheels with milling but they had other uses. We are looking at two here, both between Bradford on Avon and Bath. One may have started as a corn/grist mill. The other operates a pump.

Here’s the first.


This is Avoncliff Mill – I believe called North Mill. My photo dates from 1972, I think. We can see the River Avon has a weir built across it and that provides a head of water for the wheel. This mill dates from the 1880s But earlier mills on the site were used for fulling – a process in the cloth making industry.

Recently the mill has been the subject of all sorts of arguments. A group wanted to rescue the extremely derelict building and set up a hydroelectric power station. It sounds laudable, but things seem to be stymied and I for one am not getting into any blame game.

The mill can be seen nicely from the Avoncliff Aqueduct which carries the Kennet and Avon Canal over the river.

Four or five miles of delightful downstream bring you to Claverton on the edge of Bath and the waterwheel used to power a pump which lifts water from the River Avon and into the canal.


This was back in 1974 and the fantastic reflection can tell you the pump was not in use for the waters of the Avon seem to be entirely still. The Kennet and Avon Canal is 48 feet higher, up the bank on the left and this was a last opportunity to get water into the canal before the locks that took it down to river level in Bath – and thus emptied water back into the river.

But what an ingenious solution – to use the power of moving water to raise some of that water up.

Claverton is fully restored these days and it does the job it was built for and remains a beautiful riverside structure.


June 11, 2016

Some might think the name is a tad unprepossessing but actually Hutton-le-Hole is an attractive village in the North Yorkshire Moors.

It is years – 40 or so – since we ‘discovered’ this lovely village and the photo I shall show dates from then. On a more recent visit it seemed a bit over the top and had become one of those tourist honeypots where the sheer quantity of people somewhat spoil the place. I bet, though, that if you get there out of season, then it remains a lovely place.

It wasn’t without people 40 years ago.


These people are enjoying the gentle, family pursuits of those long ago days – a paddle in the stream, a picnic on the grass or just looking.



May 23, 2016

Bertha was once known as a dredger – a boat which was designed to keep channels clear for shipping by removing silt. I now understand that correctly she’s a drag boat in that she was like an underwater bulldozer which just shoved silt elsewhere.

I saw her many years ago – in the 1970s I think – at the Exeter Maritime Museum which was a great place.


And there she is – or at least was. She looks a bit unprepossessing but this little vessel has claims to fame.

Let’s start with the motive power. This is a steam powered vessel but without screw or paddle wheel. She had a specific use in a specific location and she hauled herself along a chain which was anchored at some convenient point. Bertha would have been a dead loss in open waters for she had no method of propulsion other than the chain.

And then there is the age. Bertha dates from 1844 and was built to keep Bridgwater Harbour clear of silt. She was still operational when presented to the Exeter Museum in 1968.

And then there is the question of the designer. This boat is attributed to Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Nobody is 100% certain but it is very, very similar to one he did design for use at Bristol docks.

She is currently at Eyemouth – the other end of the country and out of the water. Actually, Eyemouth is in Scotland.

All Brunel fans hope she’ll be returned to working order and will be seen in operation.


The bricklayer

May 22, 2016

Not so long ago I featured a Hoffnung book and I could, here, mention a Hoffnung monologue entitled, ‘The bricklayer’. But I’ll gloss over that absolutely hilarious tale of woe and move on to my own attempts at bricklaying.

It was before 1980 that I built a porch on the front of our house. And here I am in the early stages of construction work.


I see I have some mortar mixed on a board. I have hammer, bolster for halving bricks, kevel and rule as I start on the third course of bricks, just above the damp proof course. The porch still stands, well over 35 years on so I can’t have done too badly. But I really lacked speed. You watch the professionals slap on a trowel’s worth of mortar and bang on a brick – all done in seconds. I seemed to take minutes over each brick, trying to make sure it was as perfect as possible.

But what I really love about that picture is the cat flap hole in the front door.


That’s our baby son peering through, trying to see what dad is up to.

Once the porch was built the cat flap in the door was closed. Our cats, if out, can access the porch but not the rest of the house. They have learned to ask if they want to come in and we are spared the remnant of rat that we sometimes found in the house.

An Octascope

December 29, 2015

The octascope seems to have just about vanished from the world. What a pity! The principle is simple enough for it is like a kaleidoscope where you view pieces of coloured plastic in a tube, with mirrors to produce a lovely repeating rotating pattern. Now take away the plastic pieces and replace them with a lens which enables you to focus on whatever you want and turn it into the same kinds of rotational pattern. You have an octascope and they are lovely.

I think, in my family, we first saw one at the home of our rather Bohemian friends. I know my dad was captivated and set about finding cheap examples for his family – or at any rate, for me and him. I still have mine and here it is, in its box.

image002 This came from The Early Learning Centre and it still has a price label.


That price tag is useful since it is a decimal price but I suspect it may have been priced decimal just prior to 1971. If we take the octascope from the box it has something of a psychedelic look to it.


I’d love to be able to show you a pattern made with this, but I can’t attach a camera and I haven’t (to my surprise) even got a simple way of cheating one with software at the moment. But take it from me, some very beautiful images can be obtained.

I suppose the need for a reasonable lens made them more expensive than the kaleidoscope, but I still can’t really understand why they have vanished from the scene.


October 24, 2015

We married and set up home in 1971. Ladderax was a popular style of furniture at the time. It consisted of ‘ladder’ on which you could fit a variety of shelves and cupboards and arrange them as you wanted.

I think we’d have liked some back in those early 1970s but frankly we couldn’t afford it. It was just that bit more than we could justify. However, a liking for the style has persisted and recently we decided to make better space of a wall in our entrance hall by getting a mix of storage and display furniture. But we had a problem in that the presence of doors limited us to a depth of furniture of 14 inches. Anything deeper than that would foul doors. We searched in vain for something that suited us. Well, it was in vain apart from Ladderax itself, now available only (as far as we found) on the second hand market. A four ladder system was going to suit us with some of the shelves/cupboards two feet wide and some three feet.

We found what we were looking for on eBay. Actually, it was a five ladder set up so we have a spare but we have still used all of the cupboards and shelves we bought.

It was, of course, a ‘buyer collect’ item and it was about 140 miles from our home. We hired a van big enough to take all of the cupboards and also the two metre long ladders and set out on quite a lengthy day trip.

We’d have liked to have had more time but can I say that Uppingham in Rutland where we purchased our furniture is a lovely little market town and just down the road, Rockingham is a delightful estate village.

Our Ladderax is now assembled and looks like this.


It’s in amazing condition for something more than 40 years old. You can see in the photo that the end ladder reaches across to the architrave around a door. We just couldn’t have gone wider.

We have a bureau, a glass fronted cabinet, a chest of drawers, a so called drinks cabinet (just a cupboard for us) and another sliding door cupboard.  We have some seven shelves of various lengths and widths

By the way, the edge on curtain which you can see has been in use by us in more than one house since the early 70s, so it all fits together in style and period.

A plateway wagon

August 29, 2015

Essentially, a plateway is a railway but with a difference. On a plateway the wagon wheels have no flange to keep them on the rail. Instead the rail (or plate) has a right angle bend all along its length to keen a plain wheel on track.

And here is a short length of battered plateway with a wagon.


Now I’m going to have to confess to being a poor labeller of photos. This photo carries no date and no location information. So I’ll take a guess.

Back in the fairly early 1970s we took part in a course on the industrial archaeology of Shropshire which was led by the redoubtable Barry Trinder. We visited the then nascent Blists Hill Museum and I reckon this is where I took this photo. I’m more than happy to be wrong, though, if anybody out there recognises this scene.

Actually, I love the photo which definitely captures the pioneering spirit of 1970s industrial archaeology. It isn’t a modern reconstruction.

A tractor parade at Whitchurch

April 17, 2015

There are plenty of places called Whitchurch. At a guess it means the church was made of a stone which looked white. The one I refer to is in Hampshire between Basingstoke and Andover. The date was March 27th 2011. We had a family get together there.

As usual, we were early arrivals and enjoyed seeing tractors on their way to or from a rally.


I think the front one dates from the 1960s and is clearly a Massey Ferguson.

The one following it was an earlier Massey Ferguson but may well have been of 1960s origin too.


By modern standards tractors were tiny back then and offered no protection for a driver, either from the weather or in the event of a roll over.

This one, another M-F tractor, has a roll bar fitted.


And here we have a tractor with some weather protection.


This is a David Brown tractor and it was registered in 1969. The cab looks very basic but no doubt a roll bar is incorporated.

Here’s a much newer M-F tractor with a Ford in the background. It was tractors of this shape that my son collected on his toy farm in the 1980s.


That’s three Massey Fergusons of different eras.


This one was bringing up the rear as far as we were concerned for we had family to meet.


I don’t suppose motorists were too happy getting behind that lot but it provided a delightful interlude for me.

Not suitable

February 3, 2015

Some of my older photos have got a bit lost in the mists of time. In a sense there is no excuse these days. With digital technology photos can be adequately captioned on the day they are taken. But back in the 70s it could take months to finish a colour film and by the time you actually saw your photos you may well have forgotten where they were taken. And this is just such a case. It’s a photo of a road sign which was truly anachronistic back in the early 70s when it was taken.


From memory, from more than forty years ago I think this was in North Wales but I really can’t be certain. What I can be certain of was that in the 1970s vehicles called charabancs just weren’t in use for they were the coaches of the 1920s and 30s and this is one of them, probably somewhere in Dorset.


So the road may have been unsuitable for one of these and presumably it would have been too steep, windy or narrow for the more modern looking coaches of the 1970s as well.


November 12, 2014

Back in 1973 I was given a book called Facets of the English Scene. It featured text and photos by a chap called Garry Hogg and it showed quirky items and places. They obviously appealed to Mr Hogg and they also appealed to me. One of the photos was this one.


This shows a bit of wall supporting the churchyard at a village called Great Wishford. It has plaques set in it which show the price of a gallon of bread at different times since 1800. Back then it was the time of the Napoleonic wars and it seems Wishford people felt the price of bread was too high. Certainly it was only a quarter of the 1800 price in 1904.

Great Wishford wasn’t far from where we lived and in 1974 we went to see the stones for ourselves. By then a new one had been added since Garry took his photo.


Stones continue to get added and my most recent photo was in 2012.


It records up to the year 2000 when bread was priced at £3.72 per gallon – that’s 83p for a large loaf. It’s probably time for another stone soon.

For anyone who wants to find this pretty village, it is close to the A36 and the River Wylie between Salisbury and Warminster. If you catch the service 2 bus from Devizes to Salisbury you’ll probably go through the village.