Saturday, 14 November 2015

How the British dress for work and play.

Can't think what to wear this weekend ....Here's a few ideas !

Cumberland and Westmorland fighters
Wrestlers at the Grasmere Lakeland Sports & Show, 1903
Popular during 18th and 19th century but thought to have originated with the Vikings.
Add cap
Newhaven Fishwives - The Watt Girls
©  Reproduced with acknowledgement to LIz Grieve, Bristol, Avon, England

 Tenby Prawn sellers and fishwives
William Powell Smith.
National Museum of Wales
Wigan pit brow lassies
Tyneside keelmen
Filey flither pickers Bait gatherers
Fisherwomen of Fife, Scotland

Pearly Kings and Queens

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Knobstick Roses

William Henry Hodgson was born in Crewe on the 7th February 1878. In 1908 he married Jane Sweatman , the daughter of a Blacksmith in Middlewich. Luckily for him, his father in law set him up with a cottage and a large workshop...yes I'm a bit green...but a girl can dream....of the workshop !....Anyway after painting signs for a local pub he was asked by a local boatyard boss, Tommy Williams to paint his boats for him. Later, Samuel Fox came down from Westport ,wanting to employ 'Bill'. Mr Fox found the family a house in Davenport Street and Bill worked there until it closed in the 1930's. Bill then worked for the Anderton Company at Middleport until he retired at seventy. The Anderton Company already the nickname of 'knobstick'. A knobstick can be either someone who refuses to join in a trade union, or a cane with a knob on it. A painters Mahl stick is just that ..but I don't know where the name actually came from.
© the copyright holder
photo credit: The Canal Museum Stoke Bruerne
Apparently Bill was a quiet man but an obsessive painter, painting all day and painting again at home. People used to leave jobs for him at his backdoor ...( personally this is sounding all too familiar ! ) He not only painted boats , he also painted furniture, mirrors, cushions, screens and even an ice cream van....covered in fancy lettering pictures and it.

Photograph by Speedwell of cabin of boat called "Sweden"

Funnily his family just wanted to appear like every other family on the block and were not impressed when he told them that he was going to paint the living room. This he did with trees growing in each corner, lots of bull rushes ad flying birds, up the walls and ceiling. Everyone thought it was marvellous.
Photograph by Speedwell of cabin of boat called "Sweden"

Bills roses were always more realistic and three dimensional , and being a good painter he had devised a technique that could still be quick.....time is money!
His castles were black outlined with the usual lake and mountains but you can see that he couldn't resist adding more of his artistic touches,  sailing boats in the background with their reflections, swans with proper markings, beaks and legs, detailed bull rushes and stripy waving flags and tiny weather vanes. ...lovely.
He had eight children to support so doing outside work must have helped with his income.  I'm sure he must have dreamt of being able to make a living from painting large canvasses.
Bill Hodgson died on the 29th November 1957, not famous in the art world, but extremely well known and respected by the boating world....I wish I could have met him.
I expect that if he was painting now he would still have been the same, probably not well known on the 'World wide web'...not enough time to self publicise... not having time to spend everyday looking at facebook,Instagram, twitter etc etc...only having time to live and paint .....who knows......

Lets all give a HUGE CHEER for William Henry Hodgson....A true artist and boat painter.

Acknowledgement - Flowers Afloat by Tony Lewery.

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.


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