Every time I turn on the telly it seems to be fanny time, every aspect of the dear old things is up for discussion, too dry, you must need some new fannytastic cream to combat the parched state of your vagina. Conversely do you need something to dry it up a bit ?, make it something like death valley for dryness, every scenario is catered for.
Just an observation on my part, nothing to get all worked up about. But maybe a bit of balance is required, so lets see more adverts for willys, todgers, trouser snakes, whatever you choose to call them, or rather products for the application of.
I had a nice walk this morning, a bit of a trip down memory lane.
The picture above shows Boughton Crossing as it was in 1959, to be specific June 1st 1959
the level crossing had just become the towns new boundary, why am I posting it up ?, because I spent many happy hours as a sprog playing in the fields, on the river, and even on what was then a working railway line, as I lived not far away from that signal box, it's now a walkway / cycleway for the public.
You can just about make out the signal box and level crossing gates, just in front of the lorry, the old fashioned sort of crossing gates that the crossing keeper had to come out to close, and that sealed the the road right off from the track.
There was no nipping round them in your little Honda Jizz, mainly because the gates would have prevented such irresponsible behaviour and also because little Honda Jizzes didn't exist at the time.
Me and some other kids once spent an afternoon waiting on the corner of Brampton Lane which is the other side of that signal box waiting for the Queen to pass by so we could wave at her.
The picture above is the same scene today, the signal box is long gone as are the level crossing gates, and the house has changed a bit, but then in 60 years you would expect a bit of change.
Talk about a trip down memory lane, I even saw this is a field, do you remember Homepride ? it's the flour your Mum used to make cakes mixes with, and you used to wait until the end of the process and full of expectancy you would say "Mum, can I lick the bowl, ?" and she would say "No, flush the chain like everybody else". halcyon days.
The wind in the wires
Not quite the Wichita Lineman, but an atmospheric sound on a cold bright morning.
Having taken my after photo I had a wander down The Brampton Valley Way, which is what was the railway line between Northampton and Market Harborough, the wind was whistling through these overhead cables, a nice sound I thought.
I had the River Nene (pronounced Nen) to my left, fields to my right, and the beginning of the track the rail enthusiasts have laid over the years to run restored engines along.
There was even a bit of blue sky.
The hours the volunteers spend doing up these old wagons is amazing, taking something which has lain unloved for possibly years and making it look if not exactly new then not far off.
On one of the the engines I manged to zoom in on the builders plate, these were still the days we used to make stuff.
Looking back I had the privilege of growing up on the edge of town, I had a large garden to play in, sometimes I'd help my Dad dig the soil over, although I was probably more of a hindrance as I seem to remember putting a fork through my wellies and piercing a toe.
My Dad even built me a sandpit, which I spent quite of lot of time in with my matchbox diggers and earth movers building whole road systems,
That garden was the scene of so many adventures, it hosted many big bonfires on November 5th, I sometimes used to set up my tent and camp on the back lawn with some mates, many an airfix model aeroplane was shot up whilst hanging from the washing line by a couple of lengths of cotton.
The other great thing about my garden was that we had an Anderson shelter next to the shed, that served as a nice place for me and my mates to plan what we were going to do for the day .
I once set the wooden fence alight which separated us from our neighbours, I loved playing with fire, still fascinated by fire to this day, sitting in front of one not setting alight o anything I should add.
I remember laying in my bed at night and the sound of the trains that ran along the line from Northampton to Market Harborough had a sort of soothing sound, as a kid I always thought the best place to be on one of those trains was in the guards van.
If you walk far enough along the BVW you'll come to Kelmarsh Tunnel.
In the early 1850s, the London & North Western Railway promoted a line linking Northampton with Market Harborough, the intention being to capitalise on the huge amounts of ironstone found in the area.
The route was engineered by George R Stephenson, nephew of his famous namesake, and George Parker Bidder. Work got underway in 1856, with Richard Dunkley of Blisworth awarded the contract to build it. 16th February 1859 brought its official opening.
The single line was forced to penetrate hills at Kelmarsh and Great Oxendon, the former being driven through strong blue clay. On Sunday 11th April 1858, Sergeant Rawson from the local constabulary attended Kelmarsh Tunnel and found Thomas Thompson busy assembling some timber centres, whilst four other labourers loaded bricks into a wagon.
All were charged with working on a Sunday, despite the engineer protesting that their exertions were necessary in order to correct a defect in the tunnel. Each was subsequently fined five shillings; the contractor paid costs totalling £2 7s 6d.
Ok, I'm taking a few liberties here, so indulge me, Frank Tyson was a Lancastrian, not a Northamptonian but he played for Northants CCC and was very loyal to them, so that's good enough for me,
Oh, and he played for England, very successfully it has to be said, his figures of 7 for 27 against Australia in the 1954/55 Test Series at the MCG confirmed him as a quality fast bowler, and a man who took his profession very seriously.
Of his time as a player for the county he once said, "Not one player has derived more enjoyment than me out of Northants cricket,"
Frank only ended up playing for the county team because of his late arrival at a second eleven game for Lancashire, so their loss was so to speak, our gain, Northants have never been blessed with a surfeit of talent. They have had some good and loyal players but have always been a bit of a cinderella team, in F.H Tyson they had a bit of a gem.
Why am I writing about the late Mr Tyson ?, partly because I'm a cricket nut, partly because England have just played a Test Match and been soundly thrashed, by it has to be said a West Indian side who outplayed them in every respect, and because he was one of Northants best ever players and deserves to be remembered.
The sight of a genuinely fast bowler is something you can only appreciate when seen live, on the television it still looks impressive, but live you get a sense of what it must be like waiting at the other end of the strip, wondering what the ball will do.
If protective kit is needed in any game cricket is surely it, I know some say "watching cricket is like watching paint dry" I would have said the same some years back, but the first time I saw a live game, funnily enough the West Indies touring side playing at Northants in the early 1980's, I was hooked.
What was special about Frank Tyson ?, well sheer pace, which batsmen generally don't like, and interestingly apart from that Frank was an educated man who liked to quote Shakespeare and Wordsworth to opposing batsmen.
Sledging or its more contemporary manifestation "mental disintegration", we should differentiate between the two, has been around in cricket for a very long time, some very funny exchanges have taken place over the years between some great players.
One of my favourite conversations took place between that attacking England player Ian (Beefy) Botham, a man not known to back down or shy away from confrontation, and Rod "Iron gloves" Marsh of Australia, another combative player.
Marsh to Botham, "So how's your wife and my kids?".
Botham to Marsh, " The wife is fine, but the kids are retarded".
Now you just don't get quality like that anymore,
There are loads of other great exchanges too numerous to mention, the players of today still like to try to distract their opponents with chatter but don't seem to have the sharp wit required,
Jimmy Anderson batting as a tail ender was once told by Michael Clarke "Get ready for a broken &@cking arm".
Which in my humble opinion doesn't really cut the mustard, there's no wit, humour, or anything that suggests any real thought, it's just a crude threat, not worthy of any cricketer, more so when they are the Captain of their team.
Michael Clarke did say this afterwards,
"I regret that language I used, and I regret the fact I said it over the stump mic – the last thing I want is boys and girls watching to be going and playing club cricket and saying things like that to opposition players," he said.
"I think that's unacceptable that the Australian cricket captain is setting that example."
So what he was actually saying was "I'm sorry I got caught out", which is a sorry excuse for an apology.
Some things in life are harder to do than others, one of the hardest must be to sandpaper a ball down with a broken arm, but then who would want to sandpaper a cricket ball ??.
Personally I love the game and never want to see or hear the players drop to the level of footballers where abuse of the opposition or the referee is seen as normal, to me that would be taking something great and diminishing it, don't get me wrong I know times change, but cricket should always be played in the true spirit of sport, rant over.
The bloke you can see below with the big bushy mustache is bid bad Merv Hughes who I once met at Northant's County Cricket Ground, he had a reputation for swilling large amounts of lager on aeroplanes apparently.
I like to think that if it had been suggested by an opposing batsman to FHT that he thought a lot of himself as a bowler he would have responded more eloquently, perhaps using this quote from Shakespeare,
"Self-Love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting".
Quoting the Bard, not something done too much on the cricket pitches of today I suppose, but maybe something we should encourage, with microphones on the stumps these days cricket could become both an entertainment and an education in one.
I recently got hold of a copy of Franks book " A Typhoon called Tyson", the book was first published in 1961 so reading it's not only interesting to hear his own thoughts on cricket and life in general but it's a little bit of social history.
The book is full of facts about that time when the attitudes of the ordinary person and those at the top were so much different than what we consider the norm today, it was literally another world.
The story of how Lancashire lost the talents of the man is typical of the closed, inflexible thinking of the cricket hierarchy that existed at the time, probably prevalent generally. a sort of arrogance that says we know best. Wait a minute, surely we have moved on, or have we ?.
I watched the film about Eddie the Eagle a while back and seeing how Eddie had to struggle to convince the high ups to give him a chance apart from all the other obstacles he faced confirmed the idiocy of that sort of thought process.
During the introduction where Frank describes his own feelings about the art of fast bowling he says" I know there have been better bowlers, with better actions, more control and greater accuracy". Keats said in one of his letters "O for a life of sensation rather than thoughts". That would be a good comment on my bowling.
Lord Kitchener once wrote a song called "Tyson taught them a lesson that can't be forgotten", Like the lyrics, magnificent Tyson, had their batsmen beaten.
The bowling was so good it remind them of Larwood.
Oh how those Aussies must have loved Frank, the pommie annihilator.
Frank describes in the book how after the Sydney Test which England had won the team were still in the city on the following Sunday, and he and George Duckworth took a train to visit Harold Larwood who had been the destroyer of the Aussies in the notorious Body Line series.
Harold and his family had emigrated to Australia and although at the time of Body Line there had been a lot a anger generated by England's bowling tactics the Aussies had largely forgiven Harold Larwood..
In Australia the blame for these tactics was laid squarely at the feet of the then England Captain, Douglas Jardine, Franks thoughts were that Harold resented the fact that English official opinion placed the odium of an unpopular policy on the shoulders of the mere pawns in the game.
When Frank suggested to Larwood that he should come and meet the rest of the England team he turned the offer down, and apparently fours years later when Frank visited again and asked the same question the offer was turned down again, Harold it seemed wanted nothing to do with the MCC.
FH Tyson played only 17 Test matches for England, the enormous strains on the body which fast bowling inflicts took their toll and he inevitably suffered from injuries.
Every fast bowler has his own unique action, Tysons described as a mix of the rhythmic and the ungainly. A long run up culminating in a high arm action, his left shoulder facing the batsman, right arm cocked up. He did shorten his run up at some point but the strains on his leg and shoulder joints must have been huge.
This was followed by a ferocious heave of the shoulders. On delivery, his left leg kicked out and his arm was brought down with a slinging movement the entire weight landing on the right foot.
The Australian newspapers decribed him like this, "he looked more like a pre-occupied scientist. Without a cricket ball in his hand he wouldn’t cause a ripple in a bird bath.”
Looks however can be deceiving and Tyson bowled with tremendous pace. Making his first class debut against the touring Indians of 1952, the slips moved back an extra five yards after his first ball. He did not take long to get his first wicket, Pankaj Roy caught behind for a duck.
Pace bowling puts fear into even the best batsmen, and given that at the time Tyson was bowling the only protective equipment worn was a box, you can understand that fear, a cricket ball to the arm, hand, or leg at pace is immensely painful, to the head or neck it could prove fatal.
Tyson retired from First-Class cricket in 1960, at which time he emigrated to Australia and took up post as a School Master, he also coached cricket, nobody loving a sport so much could ever really give it up completely.
Given the outcome of the 2005 Ashes series Franks thoughts on how it would turn out is worth a read
He also commentated on cricket for no less than 36 years for Australian radio, a great man for Northants and for England, wherever you may be Frank, thank you.
Let's be honest modern life is full of noise, from traffic, mobile phones, aircraft, we are surrounded by it more or less twenty four hours a day, sometimes its nice to just get away from the hubbub if only for a short time to collect our thoughts, and stretch the legs.
Parks can be a great place to spend some time but even here noise can sometimes interrupt our reverie, where to go then to find some peace ?.
Walking along the side of a canal, or even travelling slowly and serenely on a narrowboat is a great wind to wind down, and travel through relatively unspoilt countryside.
Watching and listening to wildlife, and breathing in some fresh air, in any season our canal system is a fantastic resource, a legacy from a time when life was generally slower.
A product of some very clever engineers and the sweat and sheer hard graft of many thousands of men.
From a personal perspective I love being around or on water, to me its an experience a bit like sitting and watching an open fire in the Winter, there is something completely satisfying, uncomplicated, and relaxing about the experience.
The story of the Northamptonshire stretch of the Grand Union is one which typifies the men who saw a way to make something work and set about creating something that would endure, even when seemingly insurmountable obstacles came up they found very clever and inventive ways to overcome them.
Blisworth Tunnel was and is an engineering marvel, take a look in the Summer when you can drop in to one of the two pubs close by and have a quick pint, or glass of wine, just sit and watch the canal boats, very relaxing.
The entrance to the tunnel
Construction of the tunnel began in 1793 and would take many more years to reach completion, fourteen men died due to a collapse that took place when they hit quicksand and part of the roof came down. many more men would die before in opened in 1805, sadly a total of fifty fatalities in all.
These days fourteen men dying in a accident like that would be a national scandal, in those days men were seen as pretty much expendable, Those men worked long hard days with no safety equipment, the pay I should imagine wasn't much to write home about, and I would imagine they weren't well liked by the locals, something I would like to research.
Today I took a walk along another stretch of the canal on a dull January day and took a few pictures which I hope to contrast to others I will take in the Spring when things start to green up.
Canal side pictures
Obviously I'm not going to pretend you can't find ugliness even in the midst of natural beauty, and concrete with a dose of graffiti is probably one of the ugliest things about modern life.
However contrast the ugliness in the the picture above with some of the great artwork which has been painted onto some of the once dull concrete walls holding up bridges that pass over the canal, they depict Northampton's history, you can see some of them below.
I thought it looked great and its good to know that people want to improve our environment, and two local schools have been involved which is good for the children getting to know about the towns history and the world outside of a screen.
If you take a walk along the Northampton Arm you'll see the mosaic trail as well, again that involved children from local schools,
The other great thing about being by the canal is just chatting with the boaters, they will often tell you where they have come from and where they are going to, I sometimes assist other IWA (Inland Waterways Association) volunteers who clear litter along the canal and cut back vegetation,
Over the years many bags of litter have been collected and shopping trolleys pulled out of the water, a few bikes have come out from their watery grave as well. The boaters or walkers will often say they appreciate what's done which is nice to hear.
I think we would struggle to move this though. :)
Going back to Blisworth Tunnel, when large rebuilding works were carried out in the 1980's precast concrete rings were used on some sections, and apparently this was to test the materials ready for the Channel Tunnel,
The other thing I should mention is that around 1992 a couple travelling through the tunnel
had a spooky experience when they saw a fork in the tunnel and candlelight, there is no fork in the tunnel but it's said to be haunted by the men who were buried alive when the fatal collapse incident took place.
I think there used to be a boat trip into the tunnel telling you all about ghosts and scary stuff, not sure if it still runs but worth checking out.
Believe it or not at one stage steam tugs used to pass through the tunnel, imagine being stuck in it breathing in all that smoke and steam, must have been pretty horrendous, hence the ventilation shafts you can see above the tunnel.
Above, IWA volunteers clearing litter and paths.
I'm going off at a bit of a tangent here but while browsing the interweb I came across a newspaper article -
A walk with the FT: The Weedon Bec route near Northampton
It was the Weedon Bec bit that caught my eye, but then I read on and saw the name Patrick Leigh Fermor, have you ever seen a film called "Ill met by moonlight" about the capture of a German General on the island of Crete ?.
Being a fan of old black and white films, and having read the book I thought the article was very interesting.
He was a bit of an adventurer, one of those English eccentrics that have largely died out sadly, apparently he spent his early years in Weedon Bec, something I was completely unaware of.
If you have time have a read -
If you walk along the Northampton Arm you'll see the mosaic trail as well, again local children did the designs.
So if you are ever in Northampton take time to wander along the canal, if you are a dog walker its perfect, nice and flat, Spring is a great time when everything is turning green.
A plea if you do walk your dog along the canal, please don't do what some do, bag up your dogs poo and throw it in the bushes, it looks horrible.
January can be a miserable month, you are still getting over the Christmas holiday, you are skint, it's cold, and the Brexit turmoil grinds inexorably on, making the early 1970's seem like a walk in the park.
Yes, listening to the interminable chatter about backstops, no deals, Norway type deals, Jean Claude Juncker, votes of no confidence, imminent catastrophe, trade deals, borders, brexiteers, remainers, its all akin to being kicked in the head by a skinhead, just because you have long blonde hair.
The kicking however lasts only seconds.
This week I read about something called a Brexit Box, containing all the stuff you need to get you through a crisis, cost, a few hundred quid, probably worth about £100 tops, no doubt someone will make some money out of the those whose synapses are less well connected than even mine.
Putting all this aside there is still joy to be had, turn off the telly, put on a coat, and drive out into the heart of the countryside, and you may find some solace from the troubles of modern urban life.
Last Sunday I ended up in Geddington after failing to navigate to another destination, the combined efforts of a sat nav, and my Wife, and to be fair the effect of loads of road works, equalled failure to get to our original destination and as I was getting irritable I said "lets go to Geddington instead and take a look at the Eleanors Cross and pop into the pub"
First thing we see as we walked up towards the Cross, a lady on a handsome GG, GG even posed for a pic.
Queen Eleanors Cross
When Eleanor of Castile, the first wife of Edward I, died at Harby, near Lincoln, in 1290, the grief-stricken king was driven to create the most elaborate series of funerary monuments to any queen of England. He ordered the building of 12 elegant crosses to mark each of the resting places of his wife’s funeral procession as it travelled from Lincoln to her burial place at Westminster Abbey, London.
Imagine having something like that as a memorial to the fact that you have existed on this planet, personally I like my ashes to be be stored in the centre of a cricket ball,
When you pop into a country pub its great to sit by a fire, yep I know they have now been declared more toxic than a hundred VW diesels in your living room but the fascination of looking into a fire will never dim for me.
The church has some great history, so much so its hard to take it all in,
Sir Robert Dallington died in 1636 and left a sum of money for the benefit of 24 aged inhabitants of Geddington. Although considered to be Members of the “poor” it was, and still is, considered to be a symbol of respectability to number among the 24 that receive a loaf of bread each week.
The conditions for receiving the bread would be considered very harsh today’, the idea was to encourage respectability and more importantly for the peasants to obey the law, as at this time “enclosure” was causing trouble and there was always potential for things to flare up. Anything that could help to quell the bad feeling and general resentment was I suppose, thought to be a good idea.
So here the subject of enclosure rears its ugly head again, see (Radical Northamptonshire) and for added irony read below
So now we come to one Maurice Tresham, member of one of the largest land owning families who were responsible for land enclosure in the area, guess what, he was one of the original Overseers of the charity.
Sir Robert Dallington's Gift in Bread had a few conditions attached.
Reading through some of the conditions gives the impression that most of them, if not all, were all about control, for example -
"If any of these twenty four receive married folk into their houses, Strangers, or Children, without the consent of the OverSeers, they shall receive no bread while they are there".
The word Overseer is a bit sinister in itself.
How about this one -
"If any of these twenty four be not at devine service every Sunday they shall lose their bread that day unless they are hindered or some other lawful let".
And this one was obviously related to enclosure and preventing practical opposition to it -
"If any of these twenty four, or any of their families, do break or carry away any hedges, stiles, corn, or the like, they shall receive no bread the next four Sundays afterwards. Whoever is the discoverer thereof, shall have their bread to dispose of where they will".
A plea to grass on your neighbour and nothing less, and a warning that says, "if you do anything to hinder enclosure you are going hungry",
How strange to think how we can work collaboratively with our continental neighbours to produce beautiful works which will last hundreds of years and please the eyes of many, then in the blink of an eye be killing each other.
Nothing displays this stupidity more than seeing the windows I posted about in the oldest building in Northamptonshire that were produced by a German company who used English and German craftsmen , those Englishmen had to leave Germany at the onset of WW1 having worked alongside their German colleagues to produce such beautiful windows full of colour and intricate detail.
In my last post I included some pictures of some of the magnificent stained glass windows in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I mentioned that I was told by my guide on the day I visited the church that three of the windows were made in Germany.
This piqued my interest and I did some research on the web and found that the Jaffa Window had been produced by a German company called Franz Mayer based in Munich, so I searched for their contact details and having found them sent off a short email asking what they knew about the window and if they could provide me with any more information about its history.
To be honest I didn't expect a quick reply but I was pleased to receive a really detailed email back from a gentleman named Walter who not only provided lots of background info about the company but also kindly looked back at their records and came up with an interesting find.
This is an extract from his email -
"Unfortunately, most of our old files were destroyed in 1944 by bombs and fire. We could save only a few books with photos of our windows and lists showing the churches with our stained glass windows, which however are not complete, and a few "shipping books". In these books we have pictures of windows and designs-sketches but they are only signed with the order number and not place or name of the church. As almost all order files were destroyed, it's difficult to find the works.
Since some years we are relocating our worldwide works using some old shipping books and other information´s and we have compiled an List of Orders which is very detailed but still incomplete. In this List of Orders I found the following information:
Windows for Northampton UK:
Holy Sepulchre’s Church
3-light window, Justice, Faith, Fortitude
Jan. 28, 1899 Order no. 2353 Capt. Graham
2 windows, Madonna with Child, St. Joseph
Feb. 28, 1891 Order no. 1359
St. John Baptist R. C. Church
4 lights, Richard Lionheart in the battle at Jaffa A.D. 1192
Oct. 30, 1882 Order no. 444
The Jaffa Window is described in our list as a window for the St. John Baptist RC Church.
So this could be a mistake in their records or something more interesting may lie behind it, a great shame that the records were destroyed, but with the web maybe they can be reconstructed to a certain extent.
If you know of any windows in a church local to you which you believe to be made by Franz Mayer please let me know and I will pass that information onto the company.
This morning I received this from David Parish the guide that showed me round the church, in relation to the Jaffa Window seen above.
"The stained glass window in 4 parts containing a scene from the battle of Jaffa 1192 On the second panel from the left hand side the image of Richard Coeur de Lion, on the fourth panel the image of Saladin the Ottoman king surrounded by Crusader and Ottoman soldiers. Jaffa was a seaport on the coast of Palestine near to present day Haifa. The battle ended in stalemate both sides withdrawing to leave Jerusalem an open city. It was erected in 1885 by the officers, non commissioned officers and men of the 58th regiment in memory of their comrades who were killed or died in South Africa between 1879 and 1885 in the first Zulu war and the first Boor war most notable and Laing’s Nek 28th January 1881 and Majuba hill 27th February 1881. The 58th regiment became the 2nd battalion the Northamptonshire regiment in 1882."
And in elation to the Gallipoli Window -
"The window to the right hand side is a memorial window to the 4th Territorial battalion the Northamptonshire regiment which was part of the 54th division fought firstly in Gallipoli August to December 1915 then to Egypt in 1916 the battalion advanced into the Sinai peninsula on the 17th April 1917 at the second battle of Gaza the battalion incurred 386 casualties in December 1917 as part of General Allenby’s army who took Jerusalem from the Turkish ottoman forces."
Walter at the Franz Mayer Co also mentioned in his email to me the cooperation with English artists and artisans on the production of some of the works by Franz Mayer.
Franz B. Mayer liked the English transcendent style very much. Therefore, he had employed some English stained glass artists and painters. Partly he himself colored sketches.
The employed English stained glass artists have worked as designers of sketches and cartoons, or painters. These are some of the names of English artists:
Rice and Cope with their sons, Bartlett, Chapmann, Fisher, Schwager, Lessels, Belcher, Fricker, Shellard, Daniels, Bouchette, Berra, and the best of all, Francis William Dixon, a pupil of Burne-Jones. This cooperation continued for many decades. It ended in August 1914 when the last Englishmen with their families left Germany at the outbreak of World War I.
So having read this more digging on the web provided this about one of the artist mentioned -
Burne-Jones exhibited at the two International Exhibitions at the Museum of Decorative Art in Berlin in 1886 and 1893. This ensured his popularity in Germany as a painter and stained-glass designer and demonstrates the exceptionally strong influence that Burne-Jones made on the European Symbolist movement. The makers of the window, Mayer & Co of Munich (the Franz Mayer'schen Hofkunstanstalt) had a direct connection with the Pre-Raphaelites. They employed an English designer, William Francis Dixon (1848-1928), who had trained at Clayton & Bell, the English Stained-glass manufacturers. John Robert Clayton (1827-1913), a close friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Alfred Bell (1832-95), had founded their firm in London in 1855. Dixon’s designs were often heavily influenced by Burne-Jones. The Sixth Day of Creation window was commissioned in 1913 from the Franz Mayer'schen Hofkunstanstalt in Munich (Germany’s leading glass mosaic and stained glass window manufacturers) and painted by Adolf von der Heydt. It is unique in the fact that the image has been taken directly from Burne-Jones’s finished goache, whereas the windows in English churches were taken from the earlier designs Burne-Jones made for Morris & Co.
Some of Dixon's work can be seen here.
And now I digress to lighten the mood.
Last weekend I went for a much needed stroll, along the banks of the canal at Stoke Bruerne, it was a lovely sunny day, ideal for being by the water, and what do I see as I walk along ?,a beer boat, my plan to burn off calories was about to fail spectacularly.
The boat stocked some great beers including beers from a lot of Northamptonshire breweries, so I partook of a Nobby's Plum Porter, which I happen like a lot,
The beer boat moves location so look out for it if you are walking along the canal sides in Nothamptonshire and have a beer and a chat with Jon.
What better use of a boat can you think of ? answers on a postcard.
I took the picture below because I wanted to capture the boats reflection in the water and also because I love the canal system which I happen to think is a great asset which we should treasure and take care of, in terms of a great way to get exercise and getting away from the noise of the modern world it is unbeatable.
Ever wanted to have a look around a building or place not usually open to the public ?, Heritage Open Days are the chance to do just that, its England's largest festival of history and culture, and its free.
So Last SaturdayI took the chance to have a look around one of Northamptonshires most historic buildings, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is a rare Norman Round church, I was specifically interested in the military aspect of its history as I knew it has an abundance of this in connection with the Northamptonshire Regiment. I has visited the building before as I knew a skirmish had taken place during the English Civil War which had lead to marks from musket balls being visible on its exterior which can still be seen today.
I was shown around by a very knowledgeable chap called David Parish who is a military tour guide and he pointed out the various things and people connected with the church's military history and gave me some information about some of the magnificent stained glass windows, three of which were made in Germany.
The church is worth visiting just to see the Jaffa Window which depicts scenes from the Crusades and has intricate detail which my pictures won't do justice too but I hope they give you an idea of the craftsmanship involved, below is just two of the four panes that make up the window.
Unfortunately the picture I took of the windows in its entirety didn't turn out so well because of background light so I'm hoping David can send me one so I can post it up.
Update, since I posted this I have kindly been sent a picture of the Jaffa Window by John Kightley, thank you John, It can be seen below -
The Gallipoli Window is seen below -
The church contains a chapel for the Northamptonshire Regiment the ceiling of which can be seen on the left.
The church is one of only four remaining round church's built in Britain, it was modelled on the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Simon de Senlis built the church as an offering of thanks for his safe return from the Holy Land.
The Soldiers Chapel is where over 6000 soldiers from the Northamptonshires are remembered from the two great wars.
Above is the layout of the original round church and below my picture of this part of the church which doesn't really do it justice if I'm honest.
Some of the windows are memorials to individual soldiers paid for by their family, this window is a memorial to Eric Bostock.
So what is the fascination of really old buildings for me ? well probably their permanency, or lets say in the context of how long we have been around as humans, their relative permanency. Look around you today and most everything seems to be built on shifting sand metaphorically speaking, the church I visited today has been around for hundreds of years before I was born and most likely will be around for hundreds more after I'm long gone.
Think back to the ediface that was Greyfriars Bus Station, that took immense effort to build and yet 40 odd years later it is no more having been demolished, look back at the people who built the church and how little they had in terms of equipment and you have to marvel at their collective achievement in not only building the church in the first place but the fact it is still standing with relatively little maintenance many hundreds of years later.
The Normans and Simon de Senlis
The Norman legacy in Northampton is far reaching, Northampton Castle was built by them and it was used for the trial of the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket in 1164.
Some information about Simon, he was by birth a Norman, the Son of Ralph the Rich, both he and his Brother Garner rendered considerable assistance to Duke William in his conquest of England. Garner returned to Normandy to inherit the paternal estates, but Simon being in high favour with the Conqueror remained in England.
Simon was lame in one leg which caused a problem for him when the lady who had been offered to him as a bride refused to accept him because of his lameness.
Simon rebuilt and fortified the town of Northampton, and erected the castle near to the western gate, in the year 1084 the Earl repaired and re-founded the Cluniac priory of St Andrew, Northampton, making in a dependency of the French House of the Blessed Mary de Caritate.
In the year 1096 Simon in common with many of the nobles and knights of England joined in the first crusade, which ended in the capture of Jerusalem by assault on July 15th 1099.
Simon survived and returned safely to England before the end of that year.
To earl of Northampton Simon de Senlis who was one of the most powerful and wealthy of the new nobility of England, the rebuilder of Northampton and the founder of its castle, a great benefactor of religious houses and a most faithful son of the church, an earnest crusader, and a devout pilgrim, the first erection of the church of the Holy Sepulchre of Northampton may with considerable confidence be assigned.
Simon on his return from the Holy Land built the church as a sign of his thanks for his safe return, the original church of the Holy Sepulchre consisted of the round or circular part, with an aiseless chancel extending some distance to the east, which probably terminated in an apse.
Obviously over the years work has been undertaken to maintain the building which at one stage was in dire need of work to be carried out.
The soldier pictured below is Edgar Mobbs he served as a Captain in the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the same Regiment.
He is one of Northampton's most well know sportsmen, he captained the Saints and played for and captained England, the Mobbs memorial match is played every year in his honour. He was awarded the DSO and died in the Ypres Salient in Belgium killed in action in 1917.
The gentleman to the left is Fred Lessons, who played many times for Northampton Town, he served with the Ist Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment.
The Cricketer Charles Tomblin who played for Northants died towards the end of the war in June 1918 and served with the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment. Sadly I can find no pictures of Charles, but I'm making enquiries.
We should always be mindful of the people that gave their lives and suffered unimaginable hardships and witnessed such horror, women that lost husbands, parents that lost beloved sons, sons and daughters that lost fathers, brothers that lost brothers, what we should never do though is glorify war.
We have travelled from the Crusades which was fought many hundreds of years ago to World War One which although it seems a long time ago is still relatively recent, and what has mankind learnt, today we see wars still raging and civilians bearing the brunt of those wars, maybe in some distant future we will learn how to put our energies into more productive pursuits for the common good of mankind.
That would be a fitting tribute to all the talented young people who had their lives cut short and all their relatives who never really recovered from the shock and sadness of losing their loved ones.
As a lover of trees in general and in particular Oak Trees which as I get older hold a certain fascination for me due to their longevity and my relative lack of, there is a day coming up which I only learned of relatively recently, well a few years ago if memory serves me well, and of which some of you may not be aware.
Have you ever heard of Oak Apple Day or Royal Oak Day?. It was a formal public holiday celebrated in England on 29 May to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy, in May 1660. In some parts of the country the day is still celebrated and thankfully this includes my own County of Northamptonshire.
In 1660, Parliament declared 29 May a public holiday, “to be forever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day.”
The public holiday, Oak Apple Day, was formally abolished in 1859, but the date retains some significance in local or institutional customs. It is, for example, kept as Founder’s Day in the Royal Hospital Chelsea (founded by Charles II in 1681).
These ceremonies, which have now largely died out ( I wonder how many Schools have children dancing round a Maypole these days?) which as I mention above is not the case in Northamptonshire, and which will be marked again this year –
They are perhaps continuations of pre-Christian nature worship. The Garland King who rides through the streets of Castleton, Derbyshire, at the head of a procession, completely disguised in a garland of flowers, which is later fixed to a pinnacle on the parish church tower, can have little connection with the Restoration, even though he dresses in Stuart costume. He is perhaps a kind of Jack in the Green and the custom may have transferred from May Day when such celebrations were permitted again after having been banned by the Puritans.
Those Puritans certainly knew how to dampen the spirits and we have our modern day equivalents but we won’t dwell on anything negative as I’m in a very positive mood as I write this.
In the Cornish village of St Neot the vicar leads a procession carrying last year's oak bough. The vicar blesses the branch at the Church of St Aneitus and it is thrown off the church tower. A new branch is hauled heavenwards replacing the old one. The following morning villagers wear a sprig of oak and change it for the yellow flower of artemisia boys love and a celebration begins. The punishment for not changing the sprigs of oak is punishable by being stung by nettles.
I remember as a child falling into a bed of nettles wearing only shorts (me that is not the nettles) :) and the itchiness and pain that followed, it’s hard to apply dock leaves to stings when they are all over your body.
The celebration in Northamptonshire is centred around All Saints Church in the centre of the town.
There has always been a church on the site of All Saints' since Norman times, although All Hallows, as it was then, was not the 'Mother Church' of the ancient settlement. The church we see today, however, is that built after the Great Fire of Northampton in 1675.
Yes we had our own Great Fire.
Following the Great Fire, a parliamentary commission was formed to rebuild the historic church and also the town. The Parliamentarian leanings of Northampton during the English Civil War had resulted in the razing of the castle by King Charles II after his invitation to reclaim the throne in 1660. Despite this, the Earl of Northampton, a friend and confidant of the King, persuaded Charles II to contribute 1000 tons of timber from the Royal forests of Salcey and Rockingham to rebuild the Church of All Saints. This together with the repeal of the 'chimney tax' somewhat endeared the King to the people of Northamptonshire. As a result, they and others throughout the country, contributed to the rebuilding fund.
Built in 1680, All Saints' Church dominates Northampton's town centre, and carries a statue of Charles II above its portico. The statue depicts Charles II dressed in a Roman toga, supposedly because the townsfolk did not wish for the statue to be placed there [on the church], but as Charles had helped with the rebuilding they were obliged to display a statue and this was their way of expressing their annoyance. The statue of King Charles II sculpted by John Hunt was erected on the portico parapet in 1712 above the royal coat-of-arms with the inscription 'CAROLUS II REX MDCCXII'
Underneath the statue on the full width of the frieze is the following text:
This Statue Was Erected In Memory Of King Charles II. Who Gave A Thousand Tun Of Timber Towards The Rebuilding Of This Church And To This Town Seven Years Chimney Money Collected In It.
The world and our Country along with it has changed at a rapid pace and all in probability the pace of change will accelerate in the coming years, The things we took part in as children and now look back on with nostalgia such as Maypole dancing, Harvest Festival and the like may still go on but will they survive into the future, and should we even care whether they do or not ?.
Personally I think we should cherish these things, not because of sentimentality and a perception that the past was somehow better than today, which if they could our forbears would likely disavow us of that belief pretty quickly, or because we have allegiances to a faith or institution such as religion, (which I don't) but because we are all rooted in the past in some way.
Change is good in many ways and that is the very nature of life itself, we have benefited in so many ways from positive change, but should we abandon our past and all its traditions ?
I leave you with that question.
BTW my own little Oak grown from an acorn has survived the Winter and now has leaves.
I like to take as many pictures that appear on my site myself, it's part of the fun of putting something together, however I'm not a photographer by any means and I know the results can be variable, although I hope generally they convey what I'm trying to get across :)
Yesterday I was flicking through Twitter and came across a fantastic picture taken by somebody I follow which was so representative of the County (at least in my eyes) that I thought it would be great to get them out there so more people could get the pleasure I got from seeing them. the gentleman's name by the way is Steve Capel and after I contacted him he very kindly gave me permission to show some of the great pictures he has posted, so thanks Steve, the pictures shown were all taken by him and he owns the copyright.
The pictures are atmospheric, and I think quite stunning and I hope you enjoy looking at them.
The picture directly below was taken at Sunrise in Great Brington.
And below we have a sunset that Steve has captured in all it's glory.
I particularly like the picture below of Harlestone Lake, it has such an atmosphere of quiet beauty.
The sky can display itself in many forms and this picture for me is superb. Whatever we may create we will never be able to match the beauty that the natural world can show us.
Northamptonshire sandstone has a warmth when the Sun shines onto it.
Another sunset below, and as a lover of tree's I like this one.
And to finish this fine old Oak in Autumn.
We all have to earn a living and in the hurly burly of trying to stay sane and afloat we miss so much that is hiding in plain sight, sometimes when we have the opportunity it's great just to stop, listen, and look at what surrounds us, if it were ever to disappear I suspect we would long to be able to do just that.
OK I know it's a strange way to start a post but while waiting for my Wife a few days back I sat on a bench and watched a pair of Crows hanging around a chimney pot, one perched on the rim of the pot and as his head disappeared into the black depths of the pot interior he showed me his posterior, "nice" I thought, but it transpires Mr Crow and his Missus were building a nest,
Having said that I'm making assumptions it was Mr when it could have been Mrs in which case she behaved like a brazen hussey, showing me her rear in broad daylight.
This is not the Mr Crow or Mrs Crow in question but one I saw today whilst sitting in the garden of the New Inn in Abthorpe village and it reminded me so I thought I would share with you.
I was out and about a few days ago in one of the small villages which surround Northampton, I had taken my Wife to an appointment and had an hour to kill while I waited for her, unusually the sun was shining so to get some much needed exercise I had a wander around the village.
Outside the local village shop was the usual notice board, the ones you see advertising upcoming fetes and village activities, people selling bits and bobs and general stuff, but amongst this one thing that caught my attention was a printed A4 size sheet which gave some details about a lady who was going to give a talk on a book she had written about the Silk Weavers of Northamptonshire.
That immediately piqued my interest as to be honest I knew nothing about the County being associated with silk or textiles of any sort, which is the great thing about life, there is always something you can learn, at least you would hope so, politicians seem to learn nothing from history but that's another story which we won't pursue. :) as it might depress us.
I knew about our great East Midlands rivals Leicesters connection with textiles, and Nottingham's history of lace making but silk making in my own County, every day as they say is a school day.
My aim is always to lift your spirits so you say to yourself "David my old fruit, you have made me smile", whether that be because of the amateur nature of my blog, or its content, if I can raise the merest titter I consider it job done.
I'm finding the modern world and its insanities somewhat taxing at the moment and I always appreciate it myself when someone writes something that elicits a chuckle, Maybe that's what fascinates me about history, as it harks back to what seem simpler times, But then, for the people of the day it life was probably as perplexing and occasionally as irritating and certainly a lot harder than our comparatively comfortable lives.
Anyway without boring you with my thoughts I thought I would look further into the whole thing and started to dig around on the web and as usual came across some fascinating little bits one of which was an old article published back in 2010 by the local Northampton newspaper. I don't generally buy the local rag as its content is usually pretty dire but just occasionally a little gem will crop up within its pages which is worth reading.
The article was entitled "Busy Landlord had three jobs in village", and described how a small village called Abthorpe near Towcester in Northamptonshire ( by the way us
locals pronounce Towcester as Toaster), once had two Public Houses,
The Landlords name was Jim Hinson and he was indeed a productive man, he performed three roles, Landlord, Wheelwright, and Brick and Tile Maker, who said men can't multitask. ?
Now here is the interesting bit, his pub was called "The Stocking Frame", is that not a great name for a pub ?. One I have never come across before, so if you know of a public house which has this name please let me know.
Unfortunately the Pub has long since closed but it turns out that Abthorpe was at that time famous for the manufacture of silk stockings, I had always known about the Counties association with boot and shoe making as do a lot of people I talk to, but I have never in my life heard anybody speak about or mention anything to do with silk.
Apparently one wall in the house comprised of just windows to give the stocking makers a much light as they needed,
Apart from silk making in Abthorpe I also found references in some academic papers of the same thing going on in Rothwell, Corby, Huxloe, Guilsborough amd Spelhoe.
Silk weaving apprarently also flourished in Desborough, Kettering, Daventry, Towcester and Middleton Cheney in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and there is evidence of a silk manufactory at Weedon Bec.
Like a lot of occupations in those days the people whose task was to carry them out faced pretty hard conditions and unforgiving masters, this is covered in Northamptonshire Past and Present and entitled "The inhuman taskmaster: a story of Weedon Bec".
One of these papers made reference to Counties in those days being broken down into smaller administrative units knows as Hundreds, so if you are interested take a look at this link which shows the Hundreds of Northamptonshire.
So once the old brain kicks into life (mine that is) I start to wonder if the village has any connections to the Civil War, and stumbling across the Abthorpe village website I read that what is now the Village Hall was originally built in 1642 as a Free School by the Spinster Jane Leeson, using local stone. So obviously being a fine day a trip out to the village was called for. on arrival I took the picture below which is the building as it is today.
The Free School building built in 1642
It seems Jane Leeson was a woman with a very kind heart as this article makes clear
So going off at a tangent for a moment, we parked up by the Church and as we got out of the car were met by a friendly greyhound who seemed to be having an early afternoon wander, we tried to entice the dog over to see if we could find out where he had come from and as we did a gentleman came out from behind his garden gate and said "I have been looking for her".
We got chatting to him and told him about the reason for our visit and he said he knew nothing about the silk weaving but that the landlord of the local Pub would probably know more and that the pub had a board inside with some village history recorded on it.
There was indeed a board that recorded all the Landlords over many years but I couldn't get a decent photo, We had a chat to the landlord who was a friendly sort but he to didn't know about the weaving he did however mention the Stocking Frame Pub and mentioned it had been closed since probably around the 1950's.
The existing village pub is called The New Inn has has a great specials board which we intend to try soon as I am hungering for the steamed steak and kidney pudding. If I was ever asked what I would like as my last meal on earth, that would be it. :)
The gentleman who owned the dog told us that the cottages on the right (red brick) in the picture below were originally built for people working in the shoe making industry, The building on the left looks as if it may have been built around the same time as the free school.
The picture below the cottages is something we saw on the way to the pub, shoe making or references to it are never far from you in Northants.
Off to the Church seen below -
Now as I've admitted many times before I'm not religious in any sense of the word, but when you see a stained glass window you can only marvel at the beauty and work that goes into creating such a thing of beauty.
If I did follow a religion it would be Buddhism, which seems to me to make sense but lets not go down the religion discussion route, it seems to lead to lots of bad things.
To many people the picture above is typical of villages to be found all over a UK, a quiet scene, thatched roofs, lovely old stone, the scent of mown grass and the soft cooing of pigeons in the trees.
However don't be fooled by this tranquil ideal, village life can be fraught with its own problems, the dynamics between its residents, the petty jealousies, tittle tattle, I was reminded of this last night by a friend who runs a village pub, and some of the things she told me bought home how small minded and petty some people can be be, and I say some as I wouldn't want to tar everyone with the same brush. To give you an idea she related the story of a local resident who had seen on their CCTV a passing dog walker whose pet (we'll call him Fido) had been violently sick on the pavement outside their property, but hadn't attempted to clean it up.
Incandescent with rage and in an attempt to shame the offender the householder had posted a picture of said dog and owner (we assume) up on social media, so beware you too could end up on the internet for all the wrong reasons.
I suppose when it comes down to it a village is just a microcosm of wider society (and sometimes I think doing O Level Sociology back in the day influences my thought processes too much) :),
As Halloween is nearly upon us again, here is a true tale of ghosts and scary happenings.
If you were driving through Northamptonshire and happened to pass through the village of Woodford and you drove down Church Street your eye might be drawn to the lovely old village Church.
On first sight a Church not unlike many others in the County, constructed of Northamptonshire stone, standing in the same spot for many, many years, nothing unusual it its outward appearance you may think, and glancing away you drive on to your destination whereever that may be.
Buildings however like people often have things hidden inside which sometimes due to particular circumstances are revealed with shocking results.
In the Spring of 1866 it was decided that restoration work must be done on this fine building, wear and tear had taken their toll and with the majority of the people still holding their religion as important in their lives the Church was an important building in any community.
Nobody at this time could have known that this would lead to a strange and sinister discovery which would fascinate and horrify the local populace in equal measure.
The work started innocuously enough but there came a point when an old beam had to be removed, and after moving some masonry the workmen noticed a recess in the stonework, curiosity roused one man put his hand into the recess and feeling around thought he had discovered an old birds nest.
Pulling the object out they saw what appeared to be some sort of small wicker basket, the workman dropped the object whereupon it shattered on the stone floor, what happened next would shock and stun the men inside the Church.
The outer object having broken released what appeared to be something wrapped in a type of cloth and the men being lowly and probably lowly paid thought they may have chanced upon hidden treasure.
The cloth was unwrapped and what was actually revealed was a mummified human heart, the men naturally were stunned and word spread quickly throughout the local area with people flocking to the church.
St Mary The Virgin Church Woodford Northamptonshire
The people were asking questions, and the question most on their lips that day was, whose heart was this, how had it come to be hidden in their Church ?
At this juncture two women of the village told tales of ghostly appearances in the building, one telling how she had been alone in the Church arranging some flowers when she had seen what appeared to be a monk move towards the altar and upon reaching it knelt and prayed.
Another woman told a similar tale of being alone and her attention drawn to a movement near the altar she witnessed again what appeared to be a monk moving in her direction, only to disappear near the spot where the mummified heart had been discovered.
The answer to the question of how the heart came to be hidden in this Church will never really be known with certainty but much speculation has gone on over the years, some saying that it was the heart of a Crusader who had lived locally, some speculated it belonged to the monk whose ghostly apparition appeared to the two women.
You can still see the heart behind glass, set into the stone of one of the transepts, it was placed there a very long time ago for posterity.
So today I visited the Church to see for myself, above you can see the Church and below that the river Nene as it runs through fields at the back of the building.
Was it a recess like the one below where the heart was discovered ?
Below you can see the heart as it is on display now set into the stone but safely behind glass. Its a strange feeling to be looking at something which once beat strongly in the body of a human being who lived so long ago.
Aside from the novelty of its strange occupant the Church is a beautiful old building, andalthough I am not a religious person I can always appreciate the beauty of stained glasswindows, and the work that went into building these wonderful places of worship.
The two figures below are the oldest remaining memorials in the Church, they are the figures of Sir Walter Trailli and his Wife Eleanor, Sir Walter died in 1290 and his Wife in 1316.
They are effigies made from wood and the fact they have survived this long and are in such good condition is remarkable.
Sir Walter is dressed in his armour which would have been from around the period of Edward 1 and Eleanor is wearing a rather elegant costume as befitting her status.
Ghosts and stories about ghosts have always created lively conversations between those that believe in them and those that don't. As for myself I can say I have never witnessed or even thought I may have seen one, but I like to keep an open mind.
Last year I read a book about a well known outbreak of Poltergeist activity in a family home in Enfield North London, Some of the things that were described made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and the two men who investigated the case were sure the events were in no way staged by the occupants. In any case the chaos and disruption and it has to be said terror that were caused to the family were obvious, and nobody would inflict that on themselves. Eventually they were forced to leave their home and live with neighbours and friends.
This was in 1970's England pre the internet and all the easy publicity that brings so the family who some thought were staging these happenings for some short term fame for themselves did not have the easy and readily available outlets that people do today,
After watching this and then reading the book I certainly was convinced that an open mind is definitely the best policy, after all can everything be explained rationally, and would we really want to live in a world where it could. ?