Posts Tagged ‘1975’

The Garden in 1975

September 21, 2016

Back in 1975 we lived in a pleasant little semi-detached house which we had bought as the first owners of a new house in 1971. It had a small garden, but backed on to the disused Devizes railway line. Our dream of buying it had become reality and we (and neighbours who bought) had a landscaping job to do. The railway was in a shallow cutting and the ballast was still there. The ballast needed a goodly layer of soil on top but would always be well drained. We decided a rockery with steps was the way of coping with the descent down to the old line level. We were able to transfer soil down to make the lower tier of the garden level. And here is what we finished up with in the summer of 1975.


There’s the rockery with our cat, Wilmot, sunning himself on a warm stone. I built a reasonable flight of steps to get down the level. The grass down there does look a tad parched but that was on the ballast. We can just see that our neighbours had a different scheme and just made a gentle slope.

The following year we moved to our present house so we have been there for forty years now.

This photo, of course, was taken on my little Canon Demi using Agfachrome slide film.

Chirk Aqueduct revisited

July 17, 2016

1975 was a transitional time for photography. I was still taking black and white photos which I self-processed. Our broom cupboard was dark enough and big enough for me to get film from the cassette and load it into the developing tank. Once in the tank the chemicals could be added in daylight so that was easy. Once the film was developed, fixed and well washed it was safe in the light and could be hung up to dry. When ready, a room could be darkened and the safe light used. The film in the camera was sensitive to all light but printing paper was not sensitive to red light so you could see what you were doing.

I had an enlarger which was a bit like a projector. The film negatives were held in place and projected onto the baseboard. You got it all set up and focussed and maybe used a light meter to tell you how long to expose the printer paper for. You made a judgement about the quality of paper to use. Some papers offered more contrast than others.

With the enlarger turned off you placed your printing paper in place and then switched on the enlarger for the required number of seconds. Nothing seemed to happen, but you then transferred the paper into a dish of ‘developer’ and the image appeared before your eyes. You had to keep a watch on this process. Leave it too long and the paper turned black. When you judged right – still under the safe, red lamp, you transferred the print to the stop bath – which may just have been water and after a quick swish it went in the fixer. This removed the light sensitive chemicals in the paper so that you could see the image in normal light. But the print still needed a good wash and then a dry off. I had a drier which helped to keep the prints flat. My dad just left prints to dry and they tended to curl up.

Well that was a bit of an intro. I have already shown a black and white photo of Chirk aqueduct on this blog.

But it was a transitional time. My wife must have been using the little Canon Demi and was taking colour slides. That’s what we see here.


That’s me on the tiller – not that there was any steering to do for the channel through the aqueduct was only just a few inches more than boat width. The aqueduct was to the design of Thomas Telford. The railway viaduct does rather dwarf it.

The arrival of children really caused the demise of the old black and white stuff. It was time consuming, space consuming and led to toxic chemicals being in the house.

On the canal in 1975

May 31, 2016

During the mid-70s, before the arrival of children, we had thought of buying a canal boat. We made a brief excursion into boat ownership with a strange little craft that had the name ‘Snatcher’ written on it. In theory, it had a car engine driving it with three forward gears and a reverse. In practice it was difficult to keep going and perhaps this was one of those occasions.


That’s me at the front, paddling the boat. My wife is at the back with a pair of nephews. I’m guessing we were somewhere near Honeystreet. Well perhaps the photo – I guess taken by my brother in law – captures the spirit of adventure in those days when our local canal, the Kennet and Avon, was not a through waterway and anything went. Nephews certainly look nervous!

These days this stretch of canal is the haunt of modern, luxurious narrow boats with some wider ones as well for this canal is a barge canal and can, mostly, take two narrow boats side by side through the locks. With Snatcher we never had to worry about locks for it was and still is in the middle of a 15 mile lock free stretch.

Toasting Forks

September 1, 2015

I had the fortune, good or otherwise, to attend a Grammar School between the ages of 11 and 16. Actually, for various reasons, that Grammar school and I didn’t serve each other particularly well. I have, on this blog, mentioned one teacher, Mr Cole of geography who I found inspirational.

Another subject I enjoyed was metalwork. I still have this thought that it was typical of the place to teach boys metalwork, rather than the far more useful woodwork, but when all came to all I did enjoy metalwork. I loved using the forge. I loved turning things to precision standards on a lathe. I enjoyed working copper. I could even enjoy routine things like using saws and files.

Of course, the school knew best as to what we should make. We had no choice in the matter. And one object we had to make was an extendable toasting fork. I still have mine!

image002 I couldn’t tell you when this was last used for holding a piece of bread in front of an open fire. Most of the time, the poor old thing hangs up in an out building. It still works as an extendable item. This amazes me considering age – 55 years now and rust!


But in a way it spawned a second toasting fork, made by me as a youthful adult. I attended a metalworking evening class and was able to refresh some blacksmithing experience from school days. This toasting fork is fixed in length but has been made from one piece of mild steel, mostly just using heat and hammer.


I wish words could explain just how enjoyable it is to get your piece of metal really hot and then twist it. Fantastic.

Like its friend it hangs up in an out building. But maybe, come the winter months I could try them out again.


November 8, 2014

Slopers was a department store in Devizes. We met Slopers in a post I did some time ago about its cash railway. You could click here to see that.

Today we are looking at one item we purchased from the shop not long before its sad demise. That was in about 1975.

In purchasing this item we either thought it would be suitable for other folks children or we were anticipating the future for it is a child’s toy.


What we have is a collection of three people kits with a (typical of the era) foamed polystyrene tray to keep them in. When purchases, some 40 years ago, they came with a shrinkwrapped plastic cover to keep everything in place. Once removed, the tray became a bit of a pain but we clearly kept it.

I suppose we could call this an acrobat construction kit. The people can be assembled and stood on the base in a variety of weird and wonderful poses.


After a long spell in retirement these chaps have just emerged for a grandchild to look at. I think it is fair to say he isn’t that impressed.


The Anderton Boat Lift

April 12, 2014

My life in tickets

It was around Easter 1975(April 4th to be precise) that we – a group of canal boat hirers – made a trip on the Anderton Boat Lift.

Of course, I have the ticket.


As the ticket invites us to ‘PTO’ we’d better do it.


This massive structure was designed to lift boats up from the River Weaver to the Trent and Mersey Canal, some 50 feet above it. Of course, it lowered boats safely down as well. The lift is sited near Northwich in Cheshire.

Looking at the current web site, I see there have been three incarnations of the lift with the most recent in 2001. What we travelled on was essentially the 1908 version. I have taken this information from the lift’s web site at .

1908 Structure

• The addition of the machinery deck brought the overall height to approximately 80ft

• The addition of the A-Frames to support the machinery deck brought the width at the bottom of the Lift to 75ft

• Each tank was  counterbalanced by 252 tonnes of cast iron counterweights attached by wire ropes

• There were 36 stacks of counterweights on each side of the Lift, each weighing 7 tonnes There were a total of 72 geared pulley wheels on the Lift

• The largest of the geared pulley wheels which take the lifting and safety ropes weigh 3.5 tonnes. There are 8 of these on each side, a total of 16

• There are a further 20 geared pulley wheels taking 2 lifting ropes each, and 36 geared pulley wheels with one lifting rope each

• The shafts bearing the pulleys are 8 inches in diameter

• The pulley pedestals weigh between 193 and 466lbs each

You’ll get the idea. It was massive and still is. The boat – up to 70 feet long is lifted in a tank of water. It’s a mammoth lift.

We had the benefit of fine weather on the day we used it – and here we see our boat entering the lift. I’m going to guess it was Brian on the tiller.


The boat we had was not the full 70 feet long. It was probably about 50. It was called Halton Castle and we had hired it from a company at Preston Brook.


Our boat is on the way up and another is now awaiting its turn.

It’s a magnificent experience. Take the chance to use it if you can. It isn’t all that expensive to take a trip on the lift combined with a river ride.

Tower Bridge (2)

October 14, 2013

Yesterday we looked at Tower Bridge in Meccano form. Today we’ll take a sideways glance at the real thing.

Tower Bridge is one of the iconic sights of Britain. We all recognise it and love it. We all really rather hope and imagine that when the folks of Lake Havasu City in Arizona bought London Bridge, they thought they were getting Tower Bridge.

By UK standards Tower Bridge isn’t old for it was opened in 1894. But it is a wonder of engineering and very much loved.

When it was built it was felt that walkers wouldn’t wait when the roadway was raised for river traffic to pass under, so the girders at high level were made into walkways. In fact, pedestrians found the climb up, across and down, made it worth waiting and the walkways were closed in 1910.

I was able to cross on an ‘educational’ visit in the 1970s. In fact the walkways re-opened in 1982. My photos date from 1975 (ish).


The old sign looked Victorian and clearly no love was granted to it with more modern electric conduits placed over the top.


Don’t expect me to understand this magnificent array of dials, pipework and valves. I just thought then, and still do, that they are things of beauty.

Let’s get up the top.


I’m not enough of a Londoner to know just where I was looking to take that photo, but clearly it was dockland. The docks were there then. The shipping was not. I’m going to guess that it was St Katharine’s Dock and here’s hoping somebody in Blogville will put me right if it’s somewhere else.

But I know where this is.


I was on the east side walkway and through the West walkway, we see St Paul’s Cathedral.

It was a real experience back then. I wonder what it is like in much more sanitised today.


September 25, 2013

Many years ago my father with his second wife and young family rented a cottage in the little Welsh village of Abergwesyn. They had a problem. Their car gear box failed and guess what? British Leyland were on strike and so there was no chance of a new one. They extended a holiday until the next lot of visitors were due and still there was no car for them.

We were asked to go on a mission of mercy and rescue them. We could stay overnight by camping in the garden at The Post Office. Our love affair with that part of Wales began. It is a glorious, still unspoilt area and if ever we are heading out that way, we’ll find an excuse to travel through Abergwesyn and take the road on to Tregaron.

It must have been around 1974 for I have a photo I took of my half-sister in the Post Office garden. She was born in 1973.


The man who had the Post Office was called Dai Jones. He was as Welsh as could be and an absolutely delightful man. He had so much knowledge of all sorts; the sort of knowledge that people who stay hefted to one area get. It is so much deeper than the quick overview of the traveller, on a mind broadening experience. Travellers often consider men like Dai to be shallow but I wouldn’t wish to favour one way of life over another. Or maybe I would, by saying for me the deep knowledge is more what I go for, but balance it with some travel.

It was always good to call on Dai after that initial visit. We’d be sure of a warm welcome and could catch up on his news whilst he listened to ours.

One of the little things that Dai did was platting binder or baler twine into a rope. It was wonderful, when visiting the area in the year 2000, years after Dai had passed on, to come across a bit of Dai Jones rope.


This length was being used to fasten a gate. Wonderful!

Let’s have a bit of fairly local scenery to end with.


This waterfall is by a junction with the road down to Llyn Brianne – where stands the loneliest telephone box I know.


It must be time to travel again. I’d like to get back there!

Back on the canal

March 28, 2013

This dates back to 1975.

When canals were built, mostly towards the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th, they created problems. It’s obvious really. People and animals can’t walk over them from one side to the other. Bridges were needed. Very often, bridges in rural areas needed to be cheap and cheerful; structures that might allow a farmer to take animals from fields on one side of the water to pastures new on the other side. A hefty masonry structure was hardly economic – yet the bridge had to allow the boats through so a simple plank bridge wouldn’t do either.

Bridges had to be movable. On that Welsh canal, near Llangollen, the bridges lift.


Here is such a bridge. The canal could be narrowed down to just the width of a boat. A simple plank bridge was hinged at the far side and just rested on the near bank. The overhead structure provided the means to lift the bridge. A chain hangs down from the counterbalance weight on the far side. The additional weight of a person pulling on that lifted the bridge to a near vertical position to allow a boat through. Then the bridge could be lowered to allow land traffic of a light nature to pass over the canal.

So simple! So effective! So attractive!

Joule’s Brewery

March 6, 2013

I’m returning, today, to that canal trip in 1975. Back then it was still possible to see how industry had grown up by the canal because in the early nineteenth century, canals had been the main transport arteries.

Joule’s Brewery, at Stone in Staffordshire, was certainly canal-side. The canal in question was the one that linked the east and west coasts of England – the Trent and Mersey Canal.


There is the brewery, or more correctly a warehouse, forming one bank of the canal. We can see pleasure craft lined up in the distance on the left bank.


And there’s the sign telling us that this was where Joule’s Stone Ales were produced and stored. Not everyone likes industrial buildings but some are wonderful. I particularly like the gentle curve, to fit the canal, that this building has.

The business opened on this site in the 1780s. The canal had opened in 1777 so clearly Francis Joule was quick to see the benefits of a canal-side business. The brewery was bought out by a large company in the 1970s. They promptly closed it and demolished much of Joule’s old brewery. That canal-side warehouse survived, however.

As an aside, another member of the same Joule family was James Prescott Joule. He became a leading physicist and the standard unit of energy, the joule, is named after him because of the time he spent researching heat and mechanical energy.

As a second aside, most of the English canal network is far from industrial. Canals wind their way through gentle rolling countryside, for the most part and are attractive scenically.


There’s a gentle, reflective scene on the same trip near Tixall Broad where the canal widens out into a lake. This was done, probably, to keep a landowner happy. This is actually on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal but is only about ten miles from Stone.