Friday, 26 September 2014


Two gravestones in the churchyard of St John the Baptist at BROMSGROVE in Worcestershire tell their own story :

‘ Sacred to the memory of Thomas Scaife, late engineer on the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway, who lost his life at Bromsgrove Station by explosion of an engine boiler on Tuesday the 10th of Nov. 1840.  He was 28 yrs of age, highly esteemed by his fellow workmen for his many amiable qualities, and his Death will be long lamented by all those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance.  The following lines were composed by an unknown friend as a memento of the worthiness of the deceased'.
‘My engine now is cold and still, No water does my boiler fill.
My coke affords its flames no more, My days of usefulness are o’er.
My wheels deny their noted speed, No more my guiding hands they need.
My whistle too has lost its tone, Its shrill and thrilling sound has gone.
My valves are now thrown open wide, My flanges all refuse to guide.
My clacks, although once so strong, Refuse to aid the busy throng.
No more I feel each urging breath, My steam is now condens’d in death.
Life’s railway’s o’er each station’s pass, In death I’m stopp’d & rest at last.
Farewell dear friends and cease to weep, In Christ I’m safe in him I sleep.’
This stone was erected at the joint expense of his fellow workmen 1842.

 ‘ Sacred to the memory of Joseph Rutherford, late engineer to the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway Co. who died Nov 11 1840 Aged 32 yrs.

O’h! Reader stay, and cast an eye, Upon the grave where I lie.
For cruel Death has challenged me, And soon alas! Will call on thee.
Repeat in time, make no delay, For Christ will call you all away.
My time was spent like Dew in Sun, Beyond my cure my glass is run.

This stone was erected by his affectionate relict 1841'.


The Holy Trinity church of St Mary at DODFORD near Bromsgrove
is a fine Gothic Arts and Crafts building.  Designed by Arthur Bartlett, who was a member of the guild of local craftsmen who contributed furnishings to the church, it was built in 1907.   The unusual side tower is linked to the main church by a covered walkway in such a way as to create a small courtyard.  An unusual outdoor pulpit, with its entrance from the tower, overlooks this courtyard.

The only known pub to stand in a churchyard is  The Mug House which stands on consecrated ground alongside the churchyard of CLAINES parish church near Worcester.  This timber framed pub is 600 years old and was used as a coaching inn to cater for the aristocracy who had a distance to travel to the church.   The name ‘mug’ may be connected with old time communion plate or perhaps it simply related to the clinching of a deal over a ‘mug’ of ale.  Although much altered over the years it still retains the air of an ancient inn.

In the tiny village of ABBOTS MORTON near Evesham there is a letter box with a thatched roof.   It stands alongside and in keeping with a fine black and white thatched cottage near to the church.

St Andrew’s Church at CLEEVE PRIORY, near Evesham, dates back to at least the 9th century and the village was mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086.   The burial ground was consecrated on 18th October 1315 – just before Sara Charlett was born, if details on her gravestone are to be believed.   It states that she died in 1693 at the age of 309 years!   Almost certainly a mistake but nevertheless a curiosity.

EVESHAM is a lovely old town on the River Avon

A disused toilet has also been put to good use at MALVERN.  A former Victorian gents toilet now houses the world’s smallest commercial theatre.  It covers and area of just 109 square feet and seats just 112 people.


A  large piece of limestone stands forlornly in the middle of  a road junction in the village of COLWALL on the western slopes of the Malvern Hills.   One legend about this huge stone is that a giant threw the stone at his wife,  whilst another has it that it was put there by the devil and that he turns the stone over each midnight.   It doesn’t actually look as if it has been moved for many a year.

It is not unusual for a pub to be called  The  Slip  Inn,  a place to slip in for a quick drink!   However,  The  Slip  Tavern  at MUCH MARCLE in Herefordshire is a bit different and recalls an unusual event which occurred nearby in the year 1575 -  ‘ the wonder land slip’, as depicted on the inn sign.   Apparently Marcle Hill started moving at 6.0pm on 7th February of that year and was still moving three days later, during which time some 26 acres of the hill moved a distance of 400 yards, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.  It crossed two roads, demolishing a chapel, trees were uprooted and livestock was killed.    No logical explanation has ever been found for this landslip.

Originally called the ‘cucking-stole’, the ducking stool is one of the most ancient modes of punishment in England.  From Saxon times it was nothing more than a ‘stool of use’ upon which the offender sat and thus being exposed to public derision, but in time the idea was extended to include immersion in water and the various boroughs and manors were required by law to maintain their own ducking stool.   Normally associated with female ‘common scolds’, it was also used for Butchers, Bakers, Brewers, Apothecaries and the like who gave short measure or vended adulterated articles of food.  A fine example can be seen in the Priory Church at LEOMINSTER in Herefordshire and was the last to be used in England when, in 1809, a woman called Jenny Pipes alias Jane Corran, was paraded through the town on the stool and then ducked in the river.

Poet Benjamin West described the process in 1780 as follows:

‘ There stands, my friend, in yonder pool,
An engine called a Ducking Stool;
By legal power commanded down,
The joy and terror of the town,
If jarring females kindle strife,
Give language foul, or lug the coif;
If noisy dames should once begin
To drive the house with horrid din;
Away, you cry, you’ll grace the Stool;
We’ll teach you how to hold your tongue to rule.
Down in the deep the Stool descends,
But here, at first, we miss our ends;
She mounts again, and rages more
Than ever vixen did before.
If so, my friend, pray let her take
A second turn into the lake;
And, rather than your patient lose,
Thrice and again repeat the dose,
No brawling wives, no furious wenches,
No fire so hot, but water quenches.’


Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Warwickshire is at the heart of the midlands, indeed The Midland Oak at Lillington near Leamington Spa is claimed to be the 'Centre of England'.

William Shakespeare, the world's best known playwright, was born and died in STRATFORD-ON-AVON.


Many of the buildings in the town are from Shakespeare's time.

Then famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre has 1040 seats and is owned by The Royal Shakespeare Company.
Shakespeare courted his future wife, Anne Hathaway, at her  picturesque family home which is now a popular visitor attraction.

The county town of WARWICK barely survived a disastrous fire in 1694 and only a handful of Tudor buildings survived.
The town is dominated by its fine medieval castle which towers above the River Avon. It was the home of the Earl's of Warwick until 1978 and, although now a great tourist attraction, is still the home of the Greville family.


Henry V111 and his six wives take pride of place in the State Rooms.


The lovely formal gardens.


A special conservatory was constructed in the 18th century in the grounds of Warwick Castle by George Greville, Earl of Warwick to house The Warwick Vase, and it now houses a replica.
The Vase, of white marble and circular in shape, was found in 1770 in the silt of a lake at Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli near Rome and was acquired by Sir William Hamilton, then English Ambassador at the Court of Naples who conveyed it to England and passed it on to his nephew the Earl of Warwick.
The Vase has two large handles formed of interwoven vine branches from which the tendrils, leaves and grape clusters spread around the upper part. The middle of the body is enfolded with the skin of a panther with head and claws above which are heads representing Satyrs. When found the Vase was in pieces and had to be restored. A curious thing is that just one of the Satyr’s heads was replaced by that of a beautiful woman said to be in the likeness of Sir William’s wife, Lady Emma Hamilton, who is best known as Lord Nelson’s mistress. It is said that as the result a quarrel between Lady Hamilton and the Italian restorer, he gave the head a Fawn’s ear!
An inscription in Latin is translated as: “This monument of ancient Rome art and magnificence, was dug out of the ruins of the Villa at Tibur, which was held in delight by Emperor Hadrian; the Knight William Hamilton, Envoy from George 111, the Great British King, to the Sicilian King Ferdinand 1V, caused it to be restored, and despatching it to his country, dedicated it to the Father Genius of Fine Arts in the year of Our Lord 1774”
The orginal Vase was acquired by the Burrrell Collection in Glasgow in  1979.

 Directly north east of Warwick, ROYAL LEAMINGTON SPA became fashionable in the 18th century when iron and salt springs were discovered, leaving a legacy of fine gardens and elegant Regency and Victorian terraces.
The town became Royal when Queen Victoria visited in 1838 and  a statue of the Queen was erected in front of the Town Hall in 1902 at a cost of £1500.
During WW2 a bomb blast moved the statue a couple of inches on its plinth but the Queen stood firm and has remained so ever since.

The Royal Pump Room was built in 1814 and closed in 1990. The building is now incorporated into a museum and exhibition centre.
Benjamin Satchwell discovered the spring in 1784
and proclaimed its health giving virtues.
All Saints church was built in the 19th century in the neo-Gothic style.
In the early 16th century. Nicholas Brome was the owner of Baddersley Clinton House north west of Warwick, now in the care of the National Trust.   
One day he returned home and found the local priest in the parlour with his wife and they were in ‘close contact’ with each other.  Brome was so incensed that he killed the priest by stabbing him with his knife.  Brome was pardoned by the King and also by the Pope, but was required to do penance for his crime which entailed good work in his community. 
Indeed he re-built the tower of Baddersley Clinton church and this is recorded by an inscription on the inside wall of the tower.  
His final penance when he died was to be buried, just inside the south entrance to the church, standing up, which means that people walk on his head.
Hatton Locks, climbing the hill from Warwick towards Birmingham, on The Grand Union Canal, are a flight of no less than 21 locks.  This spectacular feat of 18th century engineering was constructed around 1790
and the locks are still very much in use by leisure canal boats.  
They are known as ‘The stairway to heaven’.

The Old Forge at nearby CLAVERDON is a small half timbered building much like any other forge which was once to be found in most villages. 
The unusual feature of this one is the entrance which is in the shape of
a huge horseshoe.


The Castle Inn at RADWAY in south east Warwickshire, situated on Edge Hill, actually started life as a castle albeit a sham castle.   On the centenary of the  Battle of Edgehill, gentleman architect and owner of Radway Grange, Sanderson Miller, erected this building on the very spot where Charles 1 raised his standard on the 23rd of October 1642, thus launching the first major encounter of the Civil War.  As well as marking the site of this historic battle, the sham castle  also  functioned as an ornamental gatehouse for Mr Miller’s estate.  The building became a pub in 1924