Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Shrewsbury Abbey

The Abbey of St Peter and St Paul a.k.a. Shrewsbury Abbey dates from just after the Norman conquest being founded in 1083 as a Benedictine monastery. The abbey became the site for a major shrine for St Winifred when relics were taken there in the 12th century making the abbey a site of pilgrimage. The abbey was greatly modified and expanded up to the 14th century but fell into decline during the Reformation when it had become a parish church after the dissolution of the monasteries (with some parts of the site pulled down or reused for other purposes).

Further elements of the original church were lost the following centuries including when the A5 was built through the abbey grounds and the church fell into disrepair. Major restoration projects took place in the 19th century and in the early 20th century there was a move to have the abbey become a cathedral though this was narrowly defeated by a vote in parliament. This was the second time the abbey had been mooted to become a cathedral in fact, Henry VIII had also considered it.

Despite the abbey's turbulent history a fair amount of the original Norman building remains especially on the eastern side of the nave.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lets go herbs

After a few years of sowing vegetable seeds (and getting little in return, last year's pea harvest was about the same as one tin of peas from the supermarket!) I've decided to try something different this year in the garden and my raised bed.

I'm going to try and develop a herb garden, to start things off i've bought parsley, oregano and sage plants and will add more later on.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Project #061 and the first of the 2015 model making season has been completed, a Fouga CM170 Magister trainer in Irish Air Corps colours. Next up is a Vickers Vanguard.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hillman Avenger

The Hillman Avenger was a small family car built by Hillman, Chrysler and Talbot between 1970 and 1981. The car was designed by Rootes and released under its Hillman marque, though Rootes itself had been taken over by Chrysler in the late 1960s and the car was released in the USA as the Plymouth Cricket (the world of car marques was especially complicated in the 1970s!) The Avenger took its styling cues from the latest US car designs though was in many ways technically conservative (for example sticking with a four speed gearbox instead of moving to a five speed). The Avenger was well received by the press and public and considered superior to its rival the Morris Marina. It also competed with the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva.

After 1976 the Avenger became a Chrysler proper as the Hillman marque was retired but in 1979, following the sale of Chrysler Europe to PSA, the Avenger was rebadged again as a Talbot! Time was running out for the car however as production only continued until 1981 in the UK. The Avenger was also built abroad, even appearing with a Volkswagen badge in Argentina! The Avenger was a popular car with the public and three quarters of a million were sold. Technically and conceptually the car was perfect for the 1970s though suffered from poor build quality and corner cutting to save money, however the Avenger was not alone in suffering from these problems.

The Avenger below is preserved at Coventry Transport Museum where it helps to demonstrate the production lines which enabled mass production of motorcars.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Banbury is somewhere i always like visiting, and the county it resides in in general especially since i have traced one line of my ancestry back to 16th century Oxfordshire. I visited the fine town at the weekend and of course took some photos of the canal, railway and the town in general. Earlier in the month i wrote about Banbury Cross and the religious frictions in the town during the Reformation.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Aberystwyth Lifeboat Station

Aberystwyth Lifeboat Station was established in 1861 though a lifeboat had been supported in the town since 1843. In 1861 a branch of the RNLI was established and the first boat RNLB Evelyn Wood was launched for the first time. This was a ten oared self-righting lifeboat and was followed by seven other conventional all-weather lifeboats.

Since 1964 Aberystwyth has had inshore lifeboats only after the last conventional boat was withdrawn and indeed Aberystwyth was the first RNLI station to receive an inshore boat. These can travel in shallower water than conventional boats and thus are more useful in places where most call-outs might be to holidaymakers or boaters in trouble. The current lifeboat, which has been in service since 2008, is the Spirit of Friendship, an Atlantic 85. This has twin 115hp engines that gives it a top speed of 35 knots and carries a crew of 4, it is equipped with radar and direction finding VHF. The station also has a smaller Arancia A-78 rescue craft.

Aberystwyth can be a busy station, in 2014 the lifeboats were called out 41 times. Over the years the crews have been honoured for gallantry 13 times. The RNLI is a charity that could not exist without donations, please visit their website and support this vital service which has saved so many lives.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Coventry Canal

The Coventry Canal is a 38 mile long canal that stretches from Fradley Junction near Lichfield, where it is connected to the Trent & Mersey Canal, to Coventry.
The canal terminates at Coventry basin just North of the city centre though before that there are connections to the Lichfield (originally the Wyrley & Essington), Ashby, Birmingham & Fazeley and Oxford canals along the way. Work on the canal began in 1868 with Coventry Basin opened the following year. Construction was rapid though of a high standard and the canal reached Atherstone within a year. However financial troubles began to dog the project and the final connection to the Trent and Mersey was not completed until 1789.

One complication with the Coventry Canal is that while in reality it is a continuous stretch of waterway some maps treat it as two separate sections connected by part of the Birmingham & Fazeley canal. This confusion dates from the days of private ownership of the canals, but now the canals are all owned by British Waterways the canal should really be treated as it physically is.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Let the model making season begin

The 2015 model making season is up and running and the first project, number 61 is a Fouga CM170 Magister. As can be seen here the building phase is pretty much done and now the painting will begin. I must try and improve on the 2014 count of 9 completed projects of which only 4 were aircraft.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


After passing through Derby a couple of times recently i thought it was high time i visited this iconic hub of the railway network, and i was not disappointed. As Derby is home to the Network Rail fleet which monitors and records the state of the railway network i was of course hoping/expecting to see something and i did indeed see the track recording train. You can see my photos here.

I stayed mostly at the station but did venture out, including down to the river Derwent. It was all a bit cold to venture too far though, but i'll be back!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Daimler Fleetline

The Daimler (later Leyland) Fleetline was one of the major types of British bus in production from 1960 right through to 1983. The Fleetline was the second British bus to have an engine at the rear allowing for a much more convenient passenger entrance at the front. This also allowed for buses to much more easily converted to one-man operation as the driver could handle fares too. In a front engined bus like the Routemaster the driver was too isolated to do that job as well.

The Fleetline was a common bus throughout the country in the 1970s with large fleets in London (though it was not that popular there), Birmingham and elsewhere. My earliest bus memories are on a Fleetline on the number 55 heading down to Shard End to see my Nan, sometime in the mid-70s. Maybe the bus below, as preserved at the Aston Manor Transport Museum, was the bus i was on. If not i probably did travel on it back then at some stage.

The Fleetline remained in service in Birmingham until 1997 though had gone from London by the early 1980s. Many served on with other operators both at home and abroad.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Marston Green

Marston Green is a village in Solihull near to the NEC and Birmingham Airport and was part of the parish of Bickenhill which dates from the time of Edward the Confessor. The village itself is listed in the Domesday Book as Merestone but probably dates from before the Norman conquest. Merestone was divided into two in the 12th century, Marston Culy and Wavers Marston. The former changing its name to Marston Green by the early 19th century.

Marston Green lies between two brooks (Low Brook and Hatchford Brook which flow into the river Cole). The village's population has been, for most of its existence, concerned with agriculture but it is now mostly populated by people who work in Birmingham and Solihull. Some agricultural land still exists around the village though much of it has been eaten up by post-war developments including the airport. The village saw a great deal of residential growth in early 20th centuries. A station on the LMS' London-Birmingham line was opened in 1838, this and new roads helped make Marston Green accessible and appeal to workers in the city though interestingly it was not until the 1920s that new house building was begun in earnest.

A Canadian Airforce base was located in Marston Green during the Second World War. Post-war the site was used to build a maternity hospital catering for the east side of Birmingham (even though the hospital wasn't actually in Birmingham). Thousands of babies were born there, until maternity services were moved to Heartlands Hospital, including the author. The hospital was demolished in 1999 with houses now built on the site.

Until boundary changes in the early 1970s Marston Green was part of Warwickshire but is now part of the Solihull Metropolitan Borough.

'Parishes: Bickenhill.' A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 4, Hemlingford Hundred. Ed. L F Salzman. London: Victoria County History, 1947. 34-39. British History Online. Web. 9 March 2015. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/warks/vol4/pp34-39.

Dargue W., 'Marston Green, Marston Culy/ Marston Culey, Wavers Marston', A History of Birmingham Places and Placenames from A to Y. http://billdargue.jimdo.com/placenames-gazetteer-a-to-y/places-m/marston-green/ [accessed 11/03/15]

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Church of St Peter, Wootton Wawen

The Church of St Peter in Wootton Wawen is Warwickshire's oldest church and one of the county's oldest free standing buildings with parts of the tower being of Saxon origin dating from the 11th century or earlier. Much of the current church dates from the 12 and 13th centuries with the nave and chancel, where most services take place today, being rebuilt from the original state. Other additions like the porch coming later on in the following centuries. The church contains a well preserved example of chancel screen-work and chancel seats dating from the 16th century. The oak pulpit is of a similar vintage as are a number of monumental brasses.

Wootton Wawen itself dates from at least the early 8th century with the original church established at the same time. This church was destroyed sometime in the late 10th century or early 11th. The current church of St Peter was established by the Anglo-Danish landowner Wagen (Wawen). Although a number of other stone churches were built in the late Saxon era Warwickshire only St Peter's church retains any substantial masonry in the county.

'Parishes: Wootton Wawen.' A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3, Barlichway Hundred. Ed. Philip Styles. London: Victoria County History, 1945. 196-205. British History Online. Web. 8 March 2015. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/warks/vol3/pp196-205.

Bloom J.H., Warwickshire (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1916)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Filming the freight train

I thought it was high time i made some videos of my model railway project, here 1099.013-3 takes a freight train around the layout.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Banbury Cross

The current Banbury Cross dates from 1859 and was built to celebrate the marriage of Princess Victoria to Prince Frederick of Prussia. Later additions also commemorated the coronation of King George V. It was the first cross the Oxfordshire town had had for over 250 years after several previous medieval crosses were destroyed by the Puritans. The destruction of the crosses is just one event from the town's radical past.

Banbury has a long history of radical religion with Puritans also disputing the erection of a maypole in the town in 1589, the maypole was destroyed sparking riots. The old crosses were destroyed in 1600 as they were seen by Puritans as objects of superstitious veneration. Even before the Reformation Banbury was known for its unorthodox religion, the phrase "Banbury gloss" meaning twisting of the truth may refer to what was seen as erroneous readings of Scripture.

Camden's Britannica from 1610 stated that Banbury was known for "cheese, cakes, and zeal"! In the 17th century the phrase "Banbury Man" was used as a derogatory term for a Puritan which is evidence that the town well known outside for religious radicalism. The town had become one of the major centres for Quakers and also Presbyterians also flourished. By the 18th century however the town's religious zeal was on the decline with the High Church (establishment backed Anglicanism) welcomed in the town though religious radicals continued to have influence.

The Banbury Cross is mentioned in a nursery rhyme "Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross" though this likely refers to the earlier crosses as the earliest recorded versions of the rhyme predate the current cross by some margin in the mid-18th century.

Colvin, Christina, Janet Cooper, N H Cooper, P D A Harvey, Marjory Hollings, Judith Hook, Mary Jessup, Mary D Lobel, J F A Mason, B S Trinder and Hilary Turner. 'Banbury: Introduction.' A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred. Ed. Alan Crossley. London: Victoria County History, 1972. 5-18. British History Online. Web. 3 March 2015. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol10/pp5-18.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hereford Cathedral

Hereford Cathedral is one of the great cathedrals of the British Isles and is the home of the Mappa Mundi, a 13th century map of the world and the largest mediaeval map still in existence. The current cathedral's origins date from 1079 though a cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Saint Ethelbert (and before that a church) has been on the site since the 8th century. The original cathedral was destroyed by the Welsh in 1055.

Some of the original Norman church remains though much has changed as alterations and rebuilding have continued over the centuries. The cathedral suffered some damage in the civil war but the biggest damage to the cathedral occurred in 1786 when the west front and tower collapsed. Restorations and rebuilding of the cathedral continued into the early 20th century.

The cathedral was built almost entirely from local sandstone giving it its red appearance. The various stages of construction and rebuilding have given the cathedral a characteristic look with a variety of different styles. The Mappa Mundi dates from about 1285 and hung on the wall in an aisle, little regarded though perhaps it was nothing that much out of the ordinary at the time!

'Hereford'. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, Volume 1, South west. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1931. 90-144. British History Online. Web. 3 March 2015. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/heref/vol1/pp90-144.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

GWR 48XX/14XX Class

The 14XX class was a branch line steam locomotive built by the Great Western Railway in the mid-1930s. Seventy five of these small tank engines were built which had a 0-4-2 wheel arrangement, the four wheels at the front of the design being powered, of which 4 were preserved and survive today on heritage railways and museums. The example shown here 1450 is seen on the Severn Valley Railway.

Although dating from 1932 the origin of the 14XX class (originally called the 48XX) was the GWR 517 class from the 1860s. This design was continually modified and improved over the years with the  48XX locomotives built as a more modern version of the ageing 512 class locomotives.

The 14XX (as they become after World War 2) could work with an autocoach, a coach with a driving cab at one end getting rid of the need (and wasted time) of the locomotive having to change ends of the train at termini. When in push mode with the autocoach the fireman remained in the locomotive with the driver operating the locomotive via controls in the autocoach cab. The driver communicated with the fireman using an electric bell.

Typical routes a 14XX and autocoach were used on included High Wycombe-Aylesbury, the last running using this motive power being in 1962, and Bourne End-Marlow. The 14XX class had a decent career (though nowhere near as long as their 517 class forerunners) and made it to mainline steam's final decade with the final withdrawals in the mid-1960s.