Monday, 24 October 2011

Automata Street Clock in Gloucester

This afternoon I called into Gloucester after spending the weekend in The Forest of Dean. In Southgate Street is a lovely Victorian Jewellers shop with an amazing Automata above the shop windows. It was installed by GABaker the first owner of the shop in 1904. It was made by Messrs Niehus Brothers of Bristol.
The life size figures or Jacks are a girl representing Ireland, a Man John Bull representing England, A man playing pipes for Scotland and a Welsh girl. In the centre is Old Father Time. The chimes are in the notes of A,B,D and G with Father Time string the hours in D. The striking bells ring on the hours and quarters.
I've been trying to find out more about the brothers.....which is proving blooming difficult. So far  I've found that they were called William and Edward. I have two volumes of Watchmakers and clock makers of the world and I can't find them. They must have been well respected and good makers applying for a patent in 1907 for improvements in chiming and striking clocks.  It's a shame to find it difficult to find them when they were building such brilliant clocks. I wonder that the carved figures were made by a Bristol ships figurehead carver,  even Anderson,  who made fabulous Fairground horses in 3 Commercial Row, Hotwell Road Bristol.. I think I'll have to call the shop to see if they know more.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Forest slag in my Garden

Today while doing a bit of clearing in my rather wild garden I found this lovely fact a block of real History ! After a quick call to my Dad I was told that it is a brick cast from the molten material  that was removed as waste from the process of copper smelting, in the Forest of Dean. It's about 9"x9" and about two hundred years old !
In the 1680's there were two copper smelting works one in Bristol the other at Upper Redbrook in the Forest of Dean. A lot of the slag waste was dumped in the River Avon, used on railway tracks and on roads. After causing problems with navigation it was banned from being dumped in the river. Someone had a bright idea to make bricks out of the slag. It can be seen in buildings and walls around the Severn and the Wye and in my garden.

The River Severn at Newnham.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

It's not a Grandfather Clock ?

Today I popped over to Cirencester with Jane, my good mate who owns and runs 'The Winds of Change Gallery' in Winchcombe.   We had two reasons for going over there, well perhaps three, one to pick up some lovely craft work for Jane's next Exhibition  the second for me to drop a restored dial off to Johnathon Beech, and the third for a bit of a jolly.

While we were there Jane commented on one of the 'Grandfather Clocks', and Johnathon said that they were really called Long case Clocks . He said that people call them Grandfather clocks after an old song, he's a fountain of knowledge.
In 1876 a song called 'My Grandfathers Clock' was written by Henry Clay Work. The song became so popular that all long case clocks  became known as Grandfather clocks, and the shorter clocks were called Grand mother clocks. The story for the song originated in the George Hotel, Piercebridge , Yorkshire. The Hotel was run by two brothers by the name of Jenkins. They owned a long case clock that kept perfect time until one of the brothers died. It then began to lose time. When the other brother died the clock stopped..never to go again. It is thought that Henry Clay Work visited the Inn and learnt of the story, then wrote the song. For the song and picture of the original clock please click on the following link.  Apologies for the song, you might not be able to stop singing it when you hear it !
Long case Clocks in Johnathon Beech's Shop
The original Long case ,floor clock or coffin clock first arrived on the scene around 1670. It had a long pendulum drop which made it more accurate ,thus the case became tall and narrow.
You might also be interested to know that the correct name for a clock face is a clock dial. I've been restoring these dials for many years now,keeping as much of the original as possible. Sometimes I recognise the style of a painter but their names are not recorded. I'm always constantly amazed at how many there are out there ..I keep thinking I'll have one of my restored dials back again but I never have.
Please have a look at Johnathon's website

If you want work done well, select a busy man-the other has no time. Elbert Hubbard.

What does a clock do when it's hungry ?
It goes back 4 seconds!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Blackberry Whiskey and Sloe Gin

This evening we went for a balmy evening walk to pick Blackberries. It felt odd it being so warm, but it was lovely. I'm usually in wellies not sandals....I only got stung a few times by the nettles !
The reason for picking is Blackberry whiskey. A lovely winter drink almost like Port and very easy to make, much easier than wine.

I use a very simple recipe where you don't need to weigh anything. First take a sterilised bottle, plastic milk bottle or screw top jar. Fill a 1/3 with sugar, a 1/3 with blackberries and top up with whiskey.(so it looks like a 1/3 of whiskey showing on top of fruit and sugar ) whiskey will be great. Keep in a cool dark place and shake occasionally. After straining it will be ready to drink in a put into pretty bottles it makes a brilliant Christmas Present. I also have Raspberry Vodka and Plum Vodka on the go.
Sloe Gin is made in the same way but by using sloes. I prefer to pick them after the first frosts but you can pick them now and freeze them first . The sloes need to be pricked with a fork before using them and you can add a few drops of Almond Essence if you like the taste.
Another good recipe is Vanilla Vodka using the same method, a 1/3 of sugar but replace fruit with a whole vanilla pod.
After filling a pot with fruit  ,enough for my first bottle ... we set off back home, it was starting to get dark..
but as we turned round we were treated to two deer bounding across the field in front of us,
Cheers !   Little shop selling postcards of my paintings.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Wall of Death..Fairground Motorcycle Show

Quick update....Last Sunday we had a glorious day at Goodwood Revival,....and were pleased to see the Demon Drome there putting on a great I thought I'd upload the blog that I first wrote in 2011 again.

Today we drove over to Prescott Hill Climb for their last main show of the Season. It was a great day ,Hot rods, Bikes and of course the Famous Hill Climb races. In one corner was The Demon Drome...The Wall of Death.

 You first walk up some wooden steps and enter a circular show, you are basically stood on a wooden ledge at the top of a large 32ft approx wooden barrel. When the show starts motor bikes are ridden up the wall,not only do you find yourself inches away from the wheels of the bikes with the noise and fumes but to add to the excitement the walls move !

The first Motordrome was built in 1911 at Luna Park in Coney Island. It was a board track quite long with sloping wooden sides. Unfortunately as the bikes became more powerful terrible accidents happened. The races also became more predictable with the first bike to lead often being the winner. With this motordromes became less popular..But the riders found that with increased speed ,centrifugal force made it possible for them to ride sideways on a vertical wall. By 1915 the walls had become vertical and were initially known as silodromes, later to become known as The Wall of Death. The first silodrome was based on the dimensions of the diameter of a grain silo which was approx.20 to 36 feet at the time.
The Indian and BSA Motorbike Companies realised that the shows were great advertisements for their bikes, and as you can see The Indian is still used today...a favourite of mine.

George 'Tornado'Smith is credited to have brought the Wall of Death to England from America. The link to George Tornado Smith is well worth looking at. ''Fearless Egbert'' was also one of the earliest riders working in ''Collins Famous Death Riders and Racing Lion'' in the 1920,s and 30's. The tame lions rode alongside the drivers of racing cars...and apparently one lion in particular used to roar if the rider didn't keep going !  An old film of a Wall of Death
Margaret Gast was one of the earliest female stunt riders and was known as the 'Mile a Minute Girl' after a world record in 1900 travelling 1000 miles in 120 hours.

This Demon Drome was believed to have been built in 1927 and was originally ran by Pat Collins Funfairs. There were no lions today but there was a girl rider . The Demon Drome is run by a few families who all 'live' the 1950's

If I heard correctly the one chap bought the bikes first and then bought the show, almost as a paid hobby. Dave 'Dynomyte' Seymour, his son 'Duke' and some more of his family are the stars of the show. The whole set up is great, from the outfits to their outside airstream catering, stall selling shirts etc and their cars.  If you are ever near a show then its well worth visiting. Years ago after seeing Alan Fords show I'd said I'd love to sit pillion, I almost had the chance but I can't remember why it didn't happen, a bit like when I was asked if I'd be interested in being a Rat Girl at a circus sideshow...I'd have had to sit in a large cage letting rats run about...I seem to remember that I had to get on with a painting job, but sometimes now I'm older I wish I had given them a go. There is a link to the Demon Drome Site below below.

They will be performing at Prescott Hill Climb this year on the 1st and 2nd October at the American Autumn Classic.


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