Saturday, 31 December 2011

Old Knockers !

The other day I went fora walk around Chepstow. It was a grey day but it was good to walk down Bridge Street, stand on the bridge over the River Wye and look back to the Castle.
Bridge Street has a really nice feel to it and Castle Terrace looks a great place to live. Its a Georgian terrace of ice cream colours with their rear windows looking at the Castle. There are a few pubs two advertising live music which is always a good sign of a buzzing community.

As I walked back up to town I noticed that nearly every house had a different door knocker...which got me thinking about the history and meanings of the different types. I suppose knockers have been around for as long as there has been doors...but it was in medieval times that various decorations were used, dogs, lions and gargoyles to scare away evil spirits. They later became more decorative following the fashions of the time. Forged iron and cast iron were mainly used but polished brass later became a sign of status and wealth.The lion a sign of courage,strength and bravery is seen on the knocker of No.10 Downing street, London.

Lion head door knocker
The Fir cone- a sign of clear vision of what is beyond and yet to come. It also opens when sunny and closes when wet. The following link is to an old story about a mouse and a fir cone.
Modern Woodpecker...keen ornithologist ?

Victorian Gothic by A.Kendrick & Sons. It has a bat perching on the top of the knocker. Bats area symbol of rebirth and of being very aware of your surroundings.

Dragon- to see clearly and a protector of the home.

Doctor's Knocker- Early Georgian and was designed to identify the Doctor's House.

Victorian Hand 1890's.

Looking through the prices and designs of knockers I found that one old knocker that I gave to a friend 20years ago as a house warming present is now worth £600 ! I wonder if they still have it ?
There are quite a few sites for knockers on the web but this appears to be a good one...

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Clapper Bridge

Today I went for a walk to see the newly restored 'Mickla Bridge'. It is a grade 11 listed clapper bridge made from large slabs of stone resting on a single pillar. The bridge goes across Cone brook between Alvington and Woolaston, near Lydney in the Forest of Dean.

The design of the bridge is thought to date back to prehistoric times but most surviving bridges are medieval.

In 2009 heavy rains caused a lot of damage. Luckily recently it was fully restored with help from a grant from Gloucestershire Environmental Trust and English Heritage.

It looks very new but soon it will blend and soften with mosses and lichens. ...great that someone thought enough of it to get it repaired. It was very muddy...more boggy !  and the start of my walk followed a wall of green lichen covered tyres....
..... but Mickla Bridge is worth walking to and is used..not by packhorses but by a lot of locals using 'shanks pony' !

Saturday, 24 December 2011

In the bleak midwinter

Gustav Holst wrote the music for 'In the bleak midwinter' and named it after the town in which he lived 'Cranham'. Cranham is out on the road to Painswick from Cheltenham. It is a beautiful wood to walk through with magnificent beech favourite tree of 2011 !
The poem ' In the Bleak midwinter 'was written by Christina Rossetti (1830-18940) ,sister of the famous artist  Dante Gabriel   Rossetti . She modelled for some of his most famous paintings. Click to hear Annie Lennox sing in the Bleak midwinter'.
Talking of famous woods apparently Humblebee Woods above Winchcombe were the inspiration for 'The Hobbit' by Tolkien and The Lampposts leading to Malvern in Worcestershire were the inspiration
the lamppost in the snow when the children enter Narnia through the wardrobe !Apparently C.S.Lewis ,Tolkien and George Sayer were walking home one evening when Lewis saw one of the posts shining out in the snow and said ''that would make a very nice opening line for a book''

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Lion Sleeps tonight

Last week my son and myself popped over to Compton Verney to see my work that was in the Folk art Exhibition there. Walking from the car park we noticed a shed with a large silver ball on the top of it. As we got nearer we realised that it was a camera Obscurer. Once inside the shed our heads were inside the ball...good landscape but even better... brilliant acoustics. My son started singing 'Wimoweh' because he thought I'd know it ! We sang and sang ..loudly...and I don't have the greatest singing voice..but it was great fun !
Later I told a very musical friend of mine and he told me the story behind the song...after hearing it I thought I'd blog about it
.It was originally recorded by Solomon Linda and The Evening Birds in 1939 for the Gallo Record Co. in South Africa and was called 'Mbube'. He was paid a very small price and the record company kept all the royalties from the sales. It became a great hit , Linda was famous but still poor.
Years later in 1951 Pete Seeger heard the song, believed it to be an old folk song and recorded a version with the 'Weavers'...calling the song 'Wimoweh'. Since then over 73 artists have recorded the song and nearly every time it has been a hit. When Pete Seeger discovered that Linda had written the song he sent 1000 dollars to him and instructed that all of his share of the earnings should be sent to Linda. Unfortunately he only saw the 1000 dollars in his lifetime,dying in 1962 in poverty. Eighteen years later his family were able to afford a gravestone.

In 2000 after the Disney 'Lion King' a filmmaker called Francois Verster made a  documentary called 'A lion's trail' telling the story of Solomon Linda.This raised awareness of copyrights etc and the family prepared to go to court.
 In 2004 after a lawsuit, the family of  Linda agreed a Licence with Disney and the earnings were put in trust .  Apparently the Richmond Record co. that had produced the Pete Seeger version also agreed to send 3000 dollars a year to the family. It was estimated that Disney owed 1.6 million in royalties alone!
...So if you aren't humming the song yet have a look at these videos !
The first is Solomon Linda

The second is Pete  Seeger and The Weavers

And the last is a Hippo singing

Sunday, 4 December 2011

An Elephants Home in Leamington Spa.

Today I went for a trip to The Elephant House Auctions in Leamington Spa. The building in Moreton Street used to be the home for performing Elephants. As far as I can gather initially Heiglers Equestrian Circus first kept elephants there ,followed by a famous Elephant trainer called Samuel Lockhart ( 1851-1933). (There appears to be a bit of a discrepancy about Morrell Street and Moreton street but they do join into each other.) Samuel worked in Sri Lanka on Tea plantations where he learnt how to train elephants. He bought some and ended up travelling all over the U.K. performing for Queen Victoria and working with the Ringling Brothers. While they were in Leamington Spa the Elephants were walked through the town down to the river to wash and water.  The slipway called 'The Elephants Walk is still there. It used to be nearer the Parish church but was moved near Mill Bridge because the noise of the elephants upset the church goers !
The Elephant House

He had a brother called George William Lockhart who also trained elephants. He was unfortunately killed when two of his elephants, Salt and Sauce stampeded. Salt and Sauce continued to be worked by various people including Dudley Zoo, The Fossetts and Billy Butlin.
They were also featured in the old film 'Elephant Boy'.
Ringling Brothers Circus
 His son George Claude Lockhart was the first Circus Ring master to wear 'Pink'tails and a top hat !
Apparently the owners of the Elephant House still have the right to walk Elephants down The Parade and to wash them in the River.
By the way, Royal Leamington Spa is well worth a visit..lovely architecture, even a Landsdowne Crescent like Cheltenhams. Next time we will find the slipway and visit the local museum, galleries and shops !
More information about Sam Lockhart in link_

Friday, 2 December 2011

Ghosts in Bourton on the Water

Tonight We popped over to the Christmas late night shopping in Bourton on the Water. One of the stalls was run by Bloody Bourton...a couple of chaps that do guided tours of Bourton. I have looked on line but could only find two ghost stories.The first I could find was the following..  In 1997 three men in a car were followed by a motorbike and sidecar..when the bike didn't say if the men stopped to have a look..just in case ! The second which is amusing is a ghost of a brick...yes you read this correctly..a brick ! In one of the Teahouses  people have been known to stubb their toes on it and trip over it....I am slightly wondering about what they put in their coffee. I'm afraid I don't know which shop it is though. The tours cover legends, witches, superstitons and all sorts. One of tthe shops in the town had a Witchcraft museum, the building is known locally as Witches Mill. I know the owners of the building and the shop couldnt be further away than the idea of witchcraft. Locally Charles Paget Wade[ who owned Snowshill Manor ]owned a collection of objects linked with magic and alchemy which he stored lots of the objects to do with witchcraft in the  'Witch's Garret' up the top of the manor house. This collection found its way into the Museum of Witchcraft in Bourton on the Water.Apparently in 1954 there used to be a museum of Witchcraft but locals painted signs, hung dead cats from trees and eventually caused arson. The Museum is now at Boscastle. Unfortunately some of the objects including a great magicians chest were badly damaged in the floods in 2004.
While looking for stories I accidentaly came across the origins of Tom,Dick and Harry..they were three brothers near Burford who were Highwaymen.
I think Winchcombe should have its own tours, we have ghosts, ley lines, murder alleys, strange carved stones ,witches marks, sites of whipping posts and ducking stools ..even a poem about the devil trying to visit !
''Old Nick went out upon a prowl'
An'cumed to Winchcombe, thuck dark 'ole.
But A got stuck fast in Sudeley Lane,
So swore as 'e'd never cum thur agyain !'
Anyone who knows Winchcombe will know exactly which road ! Why not come over on Tuesday 6th December for Winchcombe Christmas Late Night Shopping and see if you can find It.


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