Wednesday, 26 November 2014


NANTWICH is noted for its salt springs which date back to Roman times.
Its fine restored church has a 14th century chancel and choir stalls.
A 600 years old carving on one of the choir stalls clearly depicts a fowl with a face in its rear end!   Apparently a medieval  wood carver had a disagreement with the parson of the time and produced this curious carving for all to see.   Hence  ‘The parson’s nose’.

Standing not far from CONGLETON is a superb example of Tudor architecture which is now in the care of the National Trust.    The building of Little Moreton Hall was started in the 15th century and it has remained virtually unaltered since 1580.   It is regarded as the most perfect example of a timber framed, moated, manor house in the country.


A cottage garden in the tiny hamlet of PECKFORTON has a very fine ornament – an ornamental stone beehive in the shape of an elephant with a castle on its back. Standing some 8 feet high, it was carved in 1840 by the stone mason
who lived there.
Nearby BUNBURY has an interesting restored church which has retained many of its historic monuments.
One fine memorial in this church tells us that Sir George Beeston, 1499 – 1601 (102 years), served four monarchs.   He was Admiral of the Fleet and Captained The Dreadnaught against the Spanish Armada when he was 89 years old.

A statue commemorating Jane Johnson, the young wife of Henry Johnson the dancing master of Nantwich, originally stood close to the main altar.  
Jane died 6th April 1741 aged just 24 years.
In the 1760’s, the then vicar was ‘so disturbed by the bulging udders of Jane,’ that he had the statue removed and secretly buried in the churchyard.    It was re-discovered by chance in 1882 and now stands proudly back inside the church, albeit at the back.


St Oswald’s church at LOWER PEOVER is one of the last remaining black and white, timber framed churches in the country.   It was built in 1269 and the stone tower was added some 300 years later.   

One of its notable possessions is a ‘bog-oak, dug out’ chest with five locks securing a huge lid.   Local legend has it that at one time, any prospective bride of a Cheshire farmer was required to be able to lift the heavy lid with one hand.


A gravestone near to the chancel door of the parish church at Prestbury bears the following curious epitaph :
Sarah  Pickford
Was here interred Aug ye 17 Anno Domini 1705
And died a bachelour in the 48 yeare of her age.


A tomb grave in the same churchyard records that William Wyatt, 41 years, of Adlington, a quarryman, fell shot through the body whilst gallantly taking the lead in the capture of two armed highwaymen in Shrigley in 1848.  £100 was raised by public subscription for his widow and children. 
His brother Thomas was shot in the arm in the same incident.



The naturalist and broadcaster who used the name ‘Romany’ back in the 1930’s and 40’s was in fact a retired Methodist Minister, The Rev. George Bramwell Evens.  Apparently his mother Tilly Smith was of gypsy stock.  Evens died in 1943 and his ‘vardo’ or caravan, was restored and is preserved as a memorial to him in Parkway at WILMSLOW.  
Romany’s famous dog, Raq, died in 1947 and is buried in
a memorial garden alongside the caravan.
Lovely CHESTER is the former Roman City of Deva situated on a sandstone spur north of the River Dee and the best preserved walled city in England.

Before a by pass was built to the east of the town, the Old Dee Bridge carried the road from England into Wales and it is still used by local traffic today.
There was a bridge at this point in the Roman era and the present seven arch bridge, a Grade 1 listed building and scheduled ancient monument, 
dates to 1387

But it is the Grosvenor Bridge carrying the A483 road that is the main crossing point for local vehicles. When it was opened in 1832 by Princess Victoria, it was the longest single arch bridge in the world.

The original model by the architect of the bridge, Thomas Harrison,
is preserved nearby.

Through the archway is an area known as The Roodee now Chester Racecourse said to be the oldest course still in use today and dating to the early sixteenth century. The site was originally a harbour during Roman times and beyond but the river silted up making navigation impossible. It was also the site of a small cross where a statue of the Virgin Mary was buried and known as a 'rood' and Roodee is a corruption of Rood Eye meaning Island of the Cross.
The east side of the racecourse abuts onto the ancient city walls where once Roman trading vessels were moored.

Some 2 miles of red sandstone ramparts and towers form the walls
which still surround the city. Although some Roman stones are evident, the wall are mainly medieval.
Newgate is a red sandstone arched bridge which was built in 1938 when the walls were breached to facilitate modern traffic and is Grade 11 listed.
 The compact town centre clusters around its mainly 14th century
red sandstone cathedral. It was built over a 10th century church containing the relics of St Werburgh, a Mercian princess who died in 707. It was a Benedictine Abbey until 1540 when it became a Cathedral. 
 The  compact town centre has medieval galleried streets with a plethora of Tudor buildings of plaster and wood and  a variety of architecture
 At the very centre is the Cross dating to 1946 and taking its name from the medieval High Cross which stood here until this Royalist town fell in the Civil War and fragments of which are preserved in the town museum.
The unique Rows which consist of two tiers of shops, one at street level and the other set back on the floor above with their overhanging storeys making a covered walkway over the top of the lower shops which are accessed by steps from the road. Dating from the 14th century this distinctive style is thought to have been developed over the old Roman buildings, the remains of which can be found in many of the cellars below. 

Some of the old buildings have carved inscriptions on them, many of them with religious connotations.  In Watergate Street is God's Providence House, so called because of the inscription, 'God's Providence is mine inheritance', being the only one in the street to escape the plague.
One of the delights of this place is the combined variety of architecture
as seen along Eastgate Street.

 The old wall crosses Eastgate Street via a single arch bridge  built in 1769 to replace an older structure, upon which is an elaborate ornamental clock
dating to 1897 the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

This elegant modern shopping mall compliments the Rows.

The present day castle was built in 1811 as military quarters and to house the Assize Courts and Town Council, although there had been a castle on the site from Saxon times
Although much of the Roman town is hidden beneath the modern town, a huge amount of artefacts are preserved in the Grosvenor Museum.  However one important part of the Roman era has been excavated in Northgate in the shape of the largest amphitheatre so far discovered in Britain. 

and nearby, within a park,excavated Roman remains have been preserved whilst part of a hypocaust or heating system of a Roman house has been reconstructed from excavated remains.

WARBURTON, historically in Cheshire, is a village dating back to Saxon times.
The 14th church, dedicated to St Werburgh, is of Saxon foundation and is probably the oldest timber framed church in the country.

 In the neglected churchyard the many gravestones are weatherworn and covered in moss and foliage.    Beneath one of them William Noblett has lain for more than 150 years.   His demise,  at the age of 81 years, brought peace to this tiny hamlet because Willie was an incurable whistler and from an early age had been known as Whistling Willie.   But why should the people of Warburton be so relieved when Willie gave his last whistle?  Well, at that time the area was noted for its poachers with many of the locals taking great pride in their brigandage.  However, Willie and his whistle upset the apple cart because the local landowner, upon hearing Willie and his whistle, engaged Willie to act as a sort of gamekeeper.   His job was to patrol the squire’s grounds at night and when he found a villager up to no good, to give a loud extra special whistle to bring the squire’s servants running and the poacher to justice.   
The epitaph on Willie’s gravestone once read :   
‘Though herein he lies dead
Whistling Willie’s fame has spread
For his double tone, piercing drone
Which chilled the marrow to the bone
And will be made by him no more
T’will surely continue by the law.’
 What does it mean?   One of the Squire’s most frequent visitors was Sir Robert Peel, founder of the modern police service.  It was on one of his visits to Warburton, when he heard Willie, that Sir Robert got the idea of the policeman’s whistle, that double tone and piercing drone, mentioned in Willie’s epitaph.


Tuesday, 25 November 2014


Staffordshire is a land locked county right at the heart of England and famous for its potteries.

In 1787, John Sneyd of Belmont Hall at IPSTONES near Stoke on Trent, began to build a church in the village.  He soon had a serious disgreement with the vicar as a result of which Sneyd abandoned the village project and built his own church at the gates to Belmont Hall, in 1794.   Their disagreement was subsequently resolved and Sneyd’s private church soon became a dwelling
as it is to this day.
ALTON is perhaps best known these days for its Theme Park, but the village has a very interesting building in Dimble Lane. It is a 19th century 'roundhouse' or lock-up which was built in 1819 to detain drunks and the like for  short periods. This Grade 11 listed building has a domed roof with cupola and ball finial, a stout studded door and no windows.



The Old Talbot Inn was built in the late 16th century in the centre of UTTOXETER and this Grade 2 listed building derived its name from the Talbot Earls of Shrewsbury.  In 1644 it was willed to the local poor by its owner John Dynes.   The Vicar and Trustees of the Charity were to use the rent thus raised to pay for apprenticeships for the children of the poor.  Some two hundred years later the Charities Committee sold the pub to a local brewer for £1400 and so the old inn passed back into private ownership.


A plaque on a memorial stone alongside a huge crater near to the village of HANBURY tells a dramatic story:
‘ Just after 1100 hours on 27th November 1944, the largest explosion caused by conventional weapons in both world wars, took place at this spot, when some 3500 tons of high explosives accidentally blew up.  A crater some 300ft deep and approximately a quarter of a mile in diameter, was blown into the North Staffordshire countryside.   A total of 70 people lost their lives and 18 bodies never being recovered.  The 21 MU RAF  Fauld disaster is commemorated by this memorial, which was dedicated on 25th November 1990, some 46 years after the event.
The stone which is of fine white granite, was a gift organised by the Commandante of the Italian Air Force Supply Depot at Novara, a sister depot of 16 MU RAF Stafford, from the firm Cirla & Son, Graniti-Milano.’

The explosives were apparently being stored in old mine working prevalent
in this area.



 STAFFORD is the county town. There is an interesting old lock-up
 near to Queensway.

An information board outside the building reads :
" The lock-up, which dates from the late 18th century, is built in dressed sandstone with a pyramidal roof of thick stone slabs. On the interior it possesses a brick vaulted roof. The structure dates from the time when the Forebridge area belonged to a separate parish from the remainder of the town ( it was part of Castle Church until the 19th century ) and therefore required its own facilities, including a place in which to detain wrongdoers. Nearby, were a set of stocks and a pinfold for impounding stray animals, whilst on the opposite side of White Lion Street was a workhouse.
The lock-up was once attached to the north-west end of the White Lion Inn, a building that was removed during the construction of Queensway in the 1970's. It has been suggested that both the White Lion and the lock-up were constructed out of re-used stone from the medieval Hospital of St John the Baptist which previously stood in the area. It seems likely that the Hospital was founded by a member of the Stafford family in the 12th century. However, the first direct reference to it occurs in a document dated 1208."

A similar lock-up can be seen at GNOSSAL to the west of Stafford.
It also dates to the 18th century and was originally situated in Station Road. It was moved to its present position in Sellman Street, near to the A518 Stafford Road in 1971.

 History of the Lock Up  At the meeting of the Select Vestry on June 10th 1820 it was ordered that a proper building shall be erected for the proper confinement of criminals etc.  By the time it was finished and paid for the Captain Swing Riots in the South of England were over, people were less afraid and the navvies were behaving themselves so it was not used often.  Probably last used over 100 years ago when a local shepherd was put in for the night and let out the next morning.  It is said the custodian the sole key holder rode out from Stafford (7 miles away) to bring victuals or release the prisoner.  The windowless prison did not allow any relatives to provide sustenance. 

In the 1950's/60's it was used as a henhouse and fell into disrepair.  In 1964 Staffordshire County Council wanted to move the Lock Up to the County Museum at Shugborough as it stood in the way of road widening.  Gnosall W.I was strongly opposed to its removal from the village.  They decided to raise money to purchase a piece of land of which to re-site the Lock Up - their project to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the first W.I in this country in 1915.  It proved impossible to purchase a piece of land and members were beginning to lose hope when, in 1969, Mr Downs of Parkside Sellman Street offered to give the W.I the piece of land where the Lock up now stands.  Staffordshire County Council gave a grant for the removal of the Lock up and the money raised by the W.I covered legal expenses and fencing around the building. 

Disaster struck before the Lock Up could be removed when a lorry ran into it and almost demolished it.  Removal was now more difficult.  The work was carried out by a Lichfield firm specialising in restoring old buildings.  Each stone had to be numbered.  In December 1971 restoration began, the W.I put in a plastic bag a 1/2p, 2p and 10p piece, the Home and Country Magazine, a daily paper and the following note "This Lock Up was built in the 18th Century and was moved to its present site in 1971.  These coins were placed by the Women's Institute to commemorate its Golden Jubilee at the relaying of the first stone"  Signed Brearley, Edge and Winter.  

This unusual monument stands on a small island in the Grounds of Shugborough House near Stafford the home of the Anson family who became Earl’s of Lichfield.  Admiral George Anson  circumnavigated the  world in the 18th century and it is thought that this monument was to commemorate
the cat that accompanied him.


A very fine building stands rather forlornly in a field alongside the road at nearby TIXALL.  It is the splendidly oversized 16th century gatehouse of a former grand house long demolished.  The building has been restored by the Landmark Trust.



A little further on the other side of the road at TIXALL is a tiny octagonal building with an ogee roof, and known as Bottle Lodge.  The building mirrors the corner towers of the nearby gatehouse – possibly a lodge to the gatehouse.  It has been completely renovated and is now a minute house.

Over at BLITHBURY the village pub has a very curious name -
The Bull and Spectacles.
The pub dates back to c1650 and was originally known as ‘The Bull’. 
The story goes that one evening, a drunken customer climbed up onto the pub sign and put his spectacles on the bull. Another story tells that a prize bull nearly died after eating some poisonous berries and a local wag suggested that it should be fitted with spectacles. 
Whatever the reason, the name of the pub was changed.

The National Memorial Aboretum, a national site of remembrance at ALREWAS, was officially opened in 2001. It is situated on 150 acres of old gravel working adjacent to the confluence of the River Tame with the River Trent at the western end of the National Forest.
The Aboretum contains over 50,000 trees and there are some 300 individual memorials dedicated to the armed forces, civilian organisations and voluntary bodies who have died whilst serving their country.

At the heart of the Aboretum is the Armed Forces memorial, a tribute to over 16,000 service person who have lost their lives in conflict or as a result of terrorism since WW2.




The Beat is a poignant memorial to policemen who have lost their lives on duty in the service of their country.


The infamous Changi prison in Singapore was built in 1936 to house just 600 prisoners. During WW2 after the fall of Singapore the prison was used by the occupying Japanese army to hold some 3000 POW’s and civilian detainees whilst some 50,000 POW’s were held in various camps nearby. Thus the hell hole of Changi became synonymous with Japanese prison camps. About 850 POW’s died at Changi and a lychgate was built at the entrance to the burial ground by 18th Division REs. The original gate was subsequently dismantled and in 1952 it was re-erected and dedicated at the entrance to St Georges Garrison Church, Tanglin Barracks, Singapore. In 1971 it was again dismantled during the withdrawal of the British Garrison and the gate was once again re-erected at Bassingbourn Barracks, near Cambridge. In 2003 the gate was finally moved to the site of the Far East Prisoners Of War Grove at the National Memorial Aboretum.
A block of stone and a cell door from the demolished Changi Prison, together with a portion of the infamous Thailand Burma Railway,
are also preserved at the site. 

Between April and June 1942 Allied prisoners of war at Tandjong Priok POW Camp, Java, built a chapel which was consecrated as St George’s Chapel. Two stained glass windows set into the wall behind the altar were designed and painted by a British Officer Lt. Commander H.C Upton, RNVR. Part of the design included the Royal Coat of Arms and, known only to a few of the prisoners for fear of retribution, the artist replaced the face of the lion with that of Winston Churchill, smoking his trade mark cigar.
Those original windows are now on permanent display at the Anglican Church of All Saints, Jakarta.
In 2005 faithful copies of the windows were produced and placed in the Far East prisoners of war building at the National Memorial Arboretum.
Churchill’s face can be clearly seen.

A poignant 15th century effigy in the church of St Peter at ELFORD recalls an unusual death. It is of the young son of the Lord of the Manor, John Stanley, who is holding a tennis ball in his hand – not of the modern variety but a wooden one which was used in ‘real’ tennis.
His other hand points towards his temple and we are told that the ball struck him on the head and killed him.


LICHFIELD is a small city in the south of the county, famous for its Cathedral.
 With three spires which are known as 'The Ladies of the Vale', it is one of only two such in the country, the other being Truro Cathedral.

The west front contains some 200 statues.

BREWOOD is a small market town to the west of the county and on the corner of the Market Place stands the curiously named Speedwell Castle.  It is actually a very fine Gothic town house of the mid 18th century.  It is said that the house was built from the winnings of a racehorse called Speedwell which belonged to the Duke of Bolton.  The double tower frontage and the ogival windows and door do give the building a castle like appearance and it is said that the interior boasts a Chippendale staircase in the Chinese manner.

MOW COP is a hill which straddles the Staffordshire/Cheshire border
to the west of Biddulph.
 The hill rises to nearly 1100 feet above sea level and it is crowned by Mow Cop Castle, which is not really a castle!  This Gothic folly in the shape of a ruined castle was erected in 1750 to gratify the whim of local landowner, Randle Wilbraham.    This curious building is now in the care of the National Trust, and spectacular views can be had from the site.