Sunday, 5 July 2015

The wonderful Christopher Wallis

I first met Chrisopher ....well definitely in 2005 but may have been 2004. He was restoring the Waterill at Stanway. At the time he was fashioning the buckets that fitted onto the massive 24ft overshot water wheel. He was taking a break and asked to see what I was doing. I showed him my portfolio and said that I was lucky to have a workshop there , and he answered...'No...they are lucky to have you here '....well of course, I was charmed at once.

The following is a little video of the wheel.

 His father was Barnes Neville Wallis...famous for The Dam busters Bouncing bomb. Christopher said that his father wasn't happy about being constantly reminded and for being known for the bomb because he was a very peaceful man. He should be remembered for inventing the geodetic airframe, for being a clever engineer,  developing better leg callipers and for giving help and money to charities.
A lot of very clever people were obliged to help their country designing such things when a lot of them might not really have wanted one really wants a war.

Christopher worked on at least 20  mills including Lacey Green Windmill in Buckinghamshire and Stanway Watermill...(I keep calling it a flour mill because that's what they make...and very good it is too! ) in Gloucestershire. When governments and people would say it's going to cost too much money to save a building he would survey the buildings himself and tell ways of getting the work done more affordably. This helped save the Ribblehead Viaduct and the Barmouth Viaduct.
I've only just read that he was against barns being turned into domestic properties...I'm in agreement with him. Its virtually impossible to get a simple workshop at a reasonable rate...a barn would be perfect. There are lots of traditional workers out there that need space to carry on their craft.

The following is a sound and photo video of Stanway Flour Mill.

He wasn't into chasing money, his family, health, happiness and work were more important.. ...I only wish that I could have talked to him for longer, and although I didn't know him well, I was sorry to hear of his passing.
Everyone that visits Stanway Watermill will see a lovely photo of him in a simple frame on the window shelf....I think he would have liked that.

If you would like to read more, the people at
Lacey Green Windmill,wrote an obituary about him -which you may like to read here.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Through the looking Glass

...Just maybe Alice and Lewis Carroll visited Winchcombe. The real Alice Liddell often visited her grandparents at Hetton Lawn, Cudnall Street, Charlton Kings. Her grandfather had been the Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford when he met and became good friends with Charles Lutwidge Dodgson....or as we know him best, Lewis Carroll. The original Looking Glass was still in the house at Hetton Lawn  when the house was for sale last year.....Tenniel didn't draw it unfortunately but it is thought that he went to Oxford to sketch an eccentric furniture dealer called Theophillus Carter   who stood in his shop doorway wearing a top hat.......but then a lot of men wore top hats in those days.
The Mirror inside Hetton Lawn, Cudnall Street, Charlton Kings.
The overmantle mirror at Hetton Lawn....Please click link for more of the story from Daily mail.

It is thought that one of the grotesques on Winchcombe church is the Mad Hatter. Hatta as he is known in Through the looking glass- its the Cheshire cat that calls him mad. When Charles lived up north the town of Stockport was well known for making hats. Hatters at the time used mercury in the process and many became confused and muddled, later dying from the mercury poisoning.

 Other possible characters are found in old carvings in churches such as the standing rabbit on one side of an arch in St Marys Church, North Bar, Within Beverley, it even holds a messenger bag ! We do have a carving of a rabbit above a doorway of  of a house just up the road from the Church.

There is a carving of a cat 16th cetury on a wall in St Wilfred's Church, Grappenhall, which might be the Cheshire Cat. This village is very close to Daresbury where Charles was born. Most of his relatives were Church of England Clergy so I'm sure he visted lots of churches.

Carved stone cat
 There is also a grinning cat carving at Croft Church, Tees,Yorkshire, where Charles' father was rector.

Another weird Lewis Carroll link to Winchcombe is Micheal Cardews mother was one of Charles favourite child models ! In 1926 Micheal Cardew rented the old pottery buildings and really started the world famous studio, Winchcombe Pottery.

If you like stamps the Pst Office have just launched a set of Alice in Wonderland stamps.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Roman Mosaics

The mosaics at Chedworth Roman Villa are quite brilliant, fantastic designs and themes..When it was in full use , with brightly coloured would have taken your breath away.

Funny how nowadays, the Farrow and Ball paint colours and shabby chic works well and is fashionable in Cotswold homes, but when the artistic and skilled Dobunni tribe lived here.....well what did they think of the bright  reds and blues of the Romans!...I wonder if they were influenced and splashed a bit of colour on the walls of their homes. I can imagine them painting the lengths of timer in stripes and perhaps mimicking the mosaics onto large slabs of stone using sponges and natural earth colours.

I haven't researched into archaeological papers ,and I'm sure that nothing would have survived...but just knowing other artists and craftsmen...I just know that they would have had a go...after all it could well of been them that created or helped to make the mosaics.It is thought that unlike the Silures, the Dobunni were not warlike and submitted to the Romans arrival...accepting the Romano-British they could have enjoyed the mosaics too.

There are at least 20 other Roman Villas within a ten mile radius so if you were a local craftsman and could pick up the art of mosaics....well it would have been a good job and could have taken you far. I can imagine local craftsmen being allowed to help mark the pattern out, sort tiles and perhaps start by making the stripes and doing the grouting. Perhaps one of them might have had a flair for drawing and was allowed to produce the birds........they might even have made some Celtic  'selfies'

If a Roman of the time came and saw the stone mosaic sections available at B&Q etc....I'm sure he would have liked the idea of buying ready made strips but he would have thought they were all a bit too drab....I bet he would have liked the wallpaper though...that's pretty mad these days !

Sunday, 27 July 2014


Yes, I remember Adlestrop -- 

The name, because one afternoon 
Of heat the express-train drew up there 
Unwontedly. It was late June. 

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. 
No one left and no one came 
On the bare platform. What I saw 
Was Adlestrop -- only the name 

And willows, willow-herb, and grass, 
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, 
No whit less still and lonely fair 
Than the high cloudlets in the sky. 

And for that minute a blackbird sang 
Close by, and round him, mistier, 
Farther and farther, all the birds 
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. 

 Edward Thomas
Picture: Peter Higginbotham

A hundred years ago Edward Thomas wrote his famous poem Adlestrop. It was June 14, 1914 and he was on the train to Ledbury to visit the American poet  Robert Frost. The train stopped briefly and in that moment Edward scribbled ''…thro the willows could be heard a chain of blackbird songs at 12.45, and one thrush and no man seen, only a hiss of engine letting off steam.” The beginnings of his life of poetry. He enlisted in 1915, even though at 37 he didn't need to and was unfortunately killed on
 April 9th, 1917 at the Battle of Arras.
The train station was closed in 1966 part of the Beeching cuts. Apparently men were sent and they totally burnt and demolished all signs of the station...all Adlestrop could keep was one sign...the one in the bus stop.

The village of Adlestrop had a poetry competition but I was too late too enter...probably a good thing because I'm no poet but I tried....and here it is....

There was a young lady called Kate,
Whose train was incredibly late,
She’s waiting for Mother
They’d missed one and other,
So for news they hardly could wait

What a fool, there isn't a station,
Kate was sat at the wrong location,'
Adlestrop has a sign,
But hasn't a line,
Just a bus stop with ornamentation

Ring ring, went her mobile phone
Mum says she’s already at home
The train arrived early
It was a good journey
And now she was sat on her own.

Winchcombe town was not very far,
Twenty mins in Kate’s little car,
After kisses and hugs
And tea in big mugs
They ate cookies from out of a jar.

Edward Thomas wrote the poem I‘d read
That night while sitting in bed
I’ll go there again
No, not ever by train
But by car, bus or moped instead.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Two blue plaques in Notting Hill

This week I've been working in London. As I was walking to the job I passed two blue plaques....I have to admit I hadn't heard of either gentlemen I thought I'd look into them. Blue plaques are great but I'm sure most people, like me haven't a clue apart from the very brief description....and often, in our busy lives...don't have time or any interest to find out any more. They were first introduced in London 150 years ago specifically to commemorate the link between houses and notable figures....They work...I now know about two interesting men, famous 80 years ago, both having been in the First World War, but are almost forgotten now.
16 Campden Hill Square
The first one I saw was Charles name sake....1894-1958, Novelist and critic.
Charles Morgan
He joined the Royal Navy when he was thirteen and while on H.M.S. Monmouth his  Superior Officer  Christopher Arnold Forster encouraged the young Charles Morgan to write. He resigned from the Navy after seven years and briefly went to Brasenose College Oxford but was back in the Navy again when war broke out. It was during this time that he started writing his first novel, 'The gunroom'...this was initially lost when the ship he was travelling back to England sunk. He returned to Brasenose where he became involved with Drama and then became Theatre Critic for the Times.

He was very well known in the 1930's and 40's winning the James Tait Black memorial prize in 1940. He is also only the second British novelist after Kipling to be elected to the Institut of France in 1949.
More can be found about his books at Little Nell Hubpages.
The next plaque I saw was James Mc Bey 1883-1959, Artist.

Notting Hill Gate
At the age of fifteen he was a clerk in a local bank in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire..but it was when he borrowed Traité de la Gravure a l’Eau-Forte a book on etching from a library that his life changed . At twenty six he decided to become an artist. He started going to evening classes at Gray's School of Art and produced etchings at home using an old mangle.

  In 1911 he had an exhibition at the Gouphill Gallery in London. This launched his career. James McBey  later became one of Britain's greatest 20th century etchers.
He joined the Army Printing and Stationery Services as Second Lieutenant in 1916, becoming an official war artist and witnessing the slaughter on the Somme. He was then appointed official war artist to the British Expeditionary Force in the Middle East.

 It was here that he painted portraits of King Faisal and Lawrence of Arabia. He died in Tangier. After he died in Tangier,his wife Marguerite stayed in this house and also became an artist . She donated many of Jame's paintings to The Aberdeen Art Gallery.
 Click here to see a slide show of some his paintings

Friday, 11 July 2014

Tewkesbury Medieval Free Festival

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival has been happening since 1984 and is now one of the largest re-enactments in Europe...and it's free. It is based on the Battle of Tewkesbury that happened on May 4th 1471.  I was working late in Tewkesbury so thought I'd take my dog for a walk to see what was about. As I walked over the field I was struck by the site of masses of beautiful much more attractive than a usual camping site.

There were people already dressed up, in fact some families spend the whole weekend living
 'the part'....some as above just like dressing up ! In 1984  a friend and myself were asked if we could go over and provide some music, Pat played fiddle and I played the Bodhrun and bones....but we were told to dress up but didn't know it was a medieval event. Pat was in Top hat and tails and I was in a 1920's dress !

Not only is there a big battle re-enactment but there is a big medieval market where you can buy armour, cooking vessels, jewelry , clothes and fact everything that a medieval person could ever could probably even find a wife or husband ! There are quite a few Internet sites for buying the s tents,clothing and pilgrimage badges etc but you can't beat walking through a lane of ancient tents and buying a beautiful piece of hand made glass from a merchant in full medieval dress....If you think early it's a great chance of stocking up on some unusual presents for friends and relatives.
You can watch musicians and bands in and around the beer tent...past people have included the
 Mediaeval Baebes and an amazing band from Germany, Schelmish, and try your hand at archery or watch plays and listen to story might even meet a dragon !

The Festival is well worth going to, quite amazing that with the help of so many volunteers it has managed to remain free except for a charge on car parking. The Battlefields Trust has a map on line showing a walk that you can do any time of year....but sometimes you might need wellies !
This years Battle is on the 12th and 13th July.


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