Monday, February 27, 2012


The hamlet of Shottery is part of Stratford-upon-Avon (being around a mile or so from the town centre) though retains the feel of a separate village. Shottery is most famous for being the location of Anne Hathaway's cottage, the former childhood home of William Shakespeare's wife and now a major tourist attraction. As well as this 16th-century farmhouse are a manor house parts of which date from the 14th century (probably a tithe barn) and some other buildings which date from the 17th.
Stratford-upon-Avon DSC_0016
An estate in Shottery dates from the 8th century when it was given to the Bishop of Worcester by King Offa1. By the time of the Domesday Book Shottery was included in the manor of Stratford. Shottery was recorded as officially having a manor itself by 1354 and the oldest remains of Shottery Manor date from here though records of some kind of manor exist from the 12th century2.

1) Philip Styles (editor). "The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Manors." A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945): 258-266. British History Online. Web. 27 February 2012. <>
2) J. J. Belton. "Shottery the Mother of Stratford" <>

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stratford 2012

I went to Stratford a lot last year, i probably went there more times than i went to Erdington High Street. Long may this continue, after today the score is 1:1. For my first trip to the town this year i decided to try a few new areas and walked up to Anne Hathaway's cottage. After that i headed down the Avon. It was the first Spring-like Saturday of the year and there were a lot of people around. I took lots of photographs of course and here you can see them.
The Queens Head, Stratford-upon-Avon

Friday, February 24, 2012

Edstone Aqueduct

Edstone Aqueduct is one of three on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. North of Wilmcote and near Bearley the Edstone Aqueduct is 145m long and crosses the the current railway line from Birmingham to Stratford as well as the trackbed of another former line and a road.
Edstone Aqueduct, Stratford-upon-Avon Canal
The Edstone Aqueduct is the longest aqueduct in England and was built in the early 1800s in cast iron. An interesting feature of the aqueduct (and the other 2 on this canal) is that the towpath is level with the base of the canal and not close to the water level as is usual. Thus when you walk along the aqueduct passing boats are level with your head (or chest depending on how tall you are!) There are some nice views of the South Warwickshire countryside from the canal, lots of sheep in other words.
Bearley, Stratford-upon-Avon Canal
View from the aqueduct

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gondola on the Avon

This is one way to leave your wedding, in a gondola on the river Avon at Stratford-upon-Avon, being serenaded by a minstrel. And being photographed by tourists.
River Avon, Stratford

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

RAF decade by decade (revisited)

A couple of years ago (on another blog) i presented a decade by decade view of RAF airpower using my model aircraft collection. Now we are a few more years later on and i have built more aircraft in the intervening months i thought it would be interesting to redo this feature and see how the aircraft chosen have changed.

1910s - Bristol F.2B (1916-1932)
I went with the RE8 last time but went for a more recent model this time. Interestingly the F.2B remained in service until the early 1930s so i could have selected it for the 1920s but it would have felt wrong.

1920s - Bristol Bulldog (1929-1937)
The 1920s is a tough decade for my collection to fill. I did go with the Tiger Moth last time, making a schoolboy error as it didn't fly until 1931! The Bulldog was the classic interwar period fighter and just fits as a 1920s warplane. At the time of writing this is the latest model i have made.

1930s - Tiger Moth (1931-1952)
The Tiger Moth has been correctly chosen for the 1930s this time. The model, which was the first i made, was updated in late 2010 with better paintwork compared to when it was used the first time. The Defiant was chosen for the 1930s last time.

1940s - Supermarine Spitfire (1938-1957)
This decade is fairly easy with a number of candidates. I chose one of my fleet of Spitfires, the Mark Ia which i think is the best one i have done so far. I went with a Hurricane last time, both fighters really embody the WW2 era RAF of course.

1950s - Canadair Sabre (1952-1958)
We enter the jet age! I went with a late model Spitfire last time but i think the Sabre fits the early post-war period better.

1960s - BAC Jet Provost (1957-1993)
The Jet Provost retains it's place in the 1960s, though the model was only half-built last time. Now it can be presented in all of it's glory.

1970s... 2010s - BAe Hawk (1976 onwards)
I've tended to concentrate on the piston-engined age and still don't have a suitable kit for the 1970s and beyond except the Hawk 128 which can fit the current decade nicely and has been in service since the 1970s.

Maybe we can revisit this in a few more years time? I really could do with making more planes from the 20s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Erdington railway station

Erdington railway station has been open since 1862 when it was built by the London & North Western Railway1 as a station on the Birmingham Cross-City Line. An alternative route for the railway line through Erdington would have gone along Tyburn Road and Wood End Lane with a possible station on Mason Road - Orphanage Road (e.g. where the Library is now). On the road bridge just before the station (over Station Road) the letters LMS, the London Midland Scottish Railway later owning the station before nationalisation, can still be seen.

There was a collision in 1875 between a standing goods train at the station was hit from behind by a passenger train en route to Sutton Coldfield2. The driver of the passenger train is thought to have ignored the danger signals. Luckily there were no serious injuries or fatalities. Another accident was narrowly averted in 1966 when a barricade built across the line by materials looted from a railway store just outside the station was spotted by a passer-by who ran to the signal box to get the trains stopped3.
Railway bridge
The station is a very basic one nowadays with just 2 through roads and a manned ticket office on one platform. However when first built the station did have a goods wharf although there were complaints that facilities were insufficient and the lack of a covered unloading area a problem for unloading goods such as coal and lime4.

1) Miscellaneous News and Home Gossip. The Huddersfield Chronicle and West Yorkshire Advertiser (West Yorkshire, England), Saturday, July 28, 1860; pg. 2; Issue 541. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.
2) Railway Accident at Erdington. Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Friday, February 5, 1875; Issue 5169.
3) Rail wreckers build a 'wall' across line. Daily Mirror, Thu 20 Oct 1966 Page 17.
4) Correspondence. Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Friday, June 12, 1891; Issue 10287.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bodymoor Heath

Bodymoor Heath is a small village in North Warwickshire, perhaps best known these days as being the home of Aston Villa's training ground since the 1970s. The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal flows through the village with a crossing at Bodymoor Heath Bridge as shown below. There is private mooring here for canal boats. Not far along the canal in one direction is Kingsbury Water Park.
Bodymoor Heath Bridge
Bodymoor Heath is part of the parish of Kingsbury with some buildings dating from the 17th century1 and a Methodist chapel dating from 1844. The common land was inclosed in 1856.

1) L. F. Salzman (editor). "Parishes: Kingsbury." A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 4: Hemlingford Hundred (1947): 100-114. British History Online. Web. 14 February 2012. <>

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Locating the graves of ancestors

As i mentioned in my brief history of Witton Cemetery my Great-grand father and great-uncle are buried there. A couple of years ago i went there to help my Mum and Uncle find a couple of graves. One was of their oldest brother Roderick Grant who died in 1935 while still a child and the other that of one of their grandmothers.

They had not visited the site for decades and had no idea where the graves were but thankfully the staff at the cemetery were able to quickly tell us roughly where the graves were located. It was still not the easiest thing in the world though to find the graves. Although every grave plot is numbered the number is only displayed in a headstone and not all headstones have a visible number. A lot of graves are not marked by any headstone including that of Roderick's. Luckily the grave next to Roderick's was numbered so we could find were he was. In the photo below he is (probably!) under on the right.
We think my great-grandfather Stephen Morris was buried here too though would need to get the cemetery staff to look up for us, they said there was someone else buried in the same plot. The next grave to look for was that of my great-grand mother Rose Eleanor Grant and that was much easier to find (once we knew what to look for). Like Roderick's her grave is unmarked though.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gosta Green to Brindley Place

I've been meaning for a couple of years now to complete the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal from Aston Junction up to Old Turn Junction and today i did just that. Its a very interesting stretch of canal through the ruins of the industrial age and the rise of the leisure age. The building built on top of a lock flight is also pretty amazing, only in Britain! Here you can see the photos.
Gosta Green to Brindley Place DSC_0073

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Witton Cemetery

Witton Cemetery (originally Birmingham City Cemetery) is the largest cemetery in the city opening in 1863 with the ground being consecrated by the Bishop of Worcester1. Originally it was the city's only cemetery and was opened because existing burial grounds were running out of space. Expanding city boundaries in the early 20th century bought more cemeteries into the city however.

Originally the cemetery had 3 chapels (for Anglians, Non-conformists and Catholics) but only the Anglican chapel remains now the others being demolished in 1980. The number of burials performed there now being far less than it used to. Witton Cemetery now includes thousands of graves (including my Great-grandfather incidentally). It contains 459 burials from the First World War and 224 from the Second.
Witton Cemetery
Moor Lane entrance

A rather macabre incident occurred in 1938 when a hearse overturned on the way to the cemetery when the horses hauling it bolted. The coffin contained inside the hearse (of a six-month old child) was hurled onto the pavement injuring some mourners2. Another strange incident occurred in 1988 when an escaped prisoner attending a burial was chased through the cemetery during the burial causing a lot of upset3 with police officers accused of trampling the flowers and heavy handedness, police dogs and a helicopter being used in the chase.

The cemetery also includes a plot to the north-east bought for by Birmingham's Jewish community in 1907 with a chapel built and consecrated in 19374.

1) Berrow's Worcester Journal (Worcester, England), Saturday, May 30, 1863; pg. 5; Issue 8376. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.
2) Correspondent, Our. "Hearse Overturned in Crash." The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959): 10. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian (1821-2003) and The Observer (1791-2003). Nov 03 1938. Web. 7 Feb. 2012 .
3) "Fugitive Hunt Disrupts Burial." The Guardian (1959-2003): 6. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian (1821-2003) and The Observer (1791-2003). Nov 18 1988. Web. 7 Feb. 2012 .
4) 'Religious History: Other Religious Bodies', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7: The City of Birmingham (1964), pp. 483-485. URL: Date accessed: 07 February 2012.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Researching my family tree - the Genners

This blog article is drawn from an original article on my now defunct history blog. It has been updated thanks to information from other family history researchers who were also researching the Genners. My thanks to them for helping me put together a more detailed account of some of my earliest ancestors.

A couple of years ago I started to research my family history. On my Mum's side of the family I had a bit of a head start as my Nan's sister's son-in-law, back in the 1970s, hired a researcher to look into this already so i got a bit of a head start with some old census results and my great-great-great-great aunt Sarah Ann's (think got the right number of "greats" in there!) baptism certificate dating from 1854 which was rather interesting to say the least. She was baptised in Jackatalla in India which nowadays looks like this and later census records say she was born in Madras (modern day Chennai).

My great-great-great-great grandfather Richard Genner was, according to these documents, a private in the 84th Infantry regiment serving in India and married to Mary. I'm assuming this is the 84th Foot (York & Lancaster) Regiment which was in India at the time. A few years later my great-great-great-great grandmother Mary was, according to the 1861 census, living in Kings Stanley/Stroud, Gloucestershire and married to a retired sergeant called Thomas Butler.

Richard Genner died in June 1854 with his age at death given as 36 (meaning he would be born around  1818). Why he died is unknown though he was buried in Madras on the 28th June. This immediately struck me as Sarah Ann's baptism was just 10 days earlier. Richard was in the 84th Foot when he died though he had been transferred recently from the 74th Highlands.

As for Mary it appears she married Richard in 1852 and her maiden name was either Macglen or Maclean with a father called William or John (there is conflicting information but this can be due to transcription errors at the time). She was born around 1826 in Madras. Because of this new information about Richard i am now wondering if he was Scottish. Regiments did tend to recruit locally (even today this is often the case) thus if his regiment was originally the Highlanders and Mary appears to have a Scottish name (of course the name doesn't necessarily mean anything but put two and two together). Mary later married Thomas Butler in 1857 and moved to England and the rest, as they say, is history...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bristol Bulldog

My first kit of the 2012 season has been completed at last! Project 026 is a Bristol Bulldog, i did start early in the new year but its taken a lot longer than usual to complete the kit. This is mostly due to the unheated extension where i make my kits. The mild weather in early January lulled me into a false sense of security as otherwise i would have waited until March or so however because it was quite ambient in the extension i decided to start the kit, and then it got cold... and then colder. So cold indeed this morning for example there was ice on the inside of the windows! Anyway the kit is now done and looks pretty good. I'll wait until the end of Winter before starting the next kit...
Bristol Bulldog

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rushall Canal

The Rushall Canal connects the Tame Valley and Wyrley & Essington Canals running through eastern Walsall north of Birmingham. The canal is a short and narrow one being only 4.43km long and was built between 1844 and 1847 to speed up the transport of coal from mines in Cannock to Birmingham and the Black Country. The Rushall Canal was seen as completing the Walsall canal system construction of which began in the 1790s.

The Rushall Canal is named after the Rushall parish of Walsall which the canal passes through1.
Rushall Junction Bridge and looking down the Rushall canal
Despite being fairly short the canal includes 9 locks due to a 20m height difference between the two canals at either end.

1) Samuel Lewis (editor). "Ruscomb - Ruswarp." A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848): 717-719. British History Online. Web. 03 February 2012.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Clopton Bridge, Stratford-upon-Avon

Obviously a town on a river needs a number of river crossings, Clopton Bridge is one of several at Stratford crossing the Avon and dates from where the river was forded back in Saxon times and earlier. The first mention of a bridge dates from 1235, later writers considered this bridge a rather poor wooden one that was rather small and could be swamped by the river when waters were high.

The current bridge was built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a "Warwickshire man to the backbone"1 who also invested in a number of other buildings in the town such as the Guild Chapel and New Place (which later on was where William Shakespeare died) and later became Lord Mayor of London, during the reign of Henry VII in 14802. The bridge has 14 arches though some were widened later to better allow for the passage of boats, a toll house tower also being added. The bridge was widened in the early 19th century due to increasing road traffic. Nowadays the A3400 runs over it.
River Avon, Stratford-upon-Avon
Parts of the bridge have had to be rebuilt at various times. During the English Civil War for example one arch was demolished, the bridge also had to be partially rebuilt after damage during a great storm and flood in 1588.

1) John Burman, Old Warwickshire Familes and Houses (Birmingham: Cornish Brothers Limited, 1934), p. 11.
2) Philip Styles (editor), "The borough of Stratford-upon-Avon: Introduction and architectural description." A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3: Barlichway hundred (1945): 221-234. British History Online. Web. 01 February 2012.