Sunday, 29 April 2012

Seaside Sunday: Southend by charabanc

Much as I enjoy a visit to Southend-on-Sea, my trips are much more staid than this pre-war pensioners' outing!


If you fancy a charabanc trip of your own, restored vehicles continue to offer days out. I took a vintage bus from Whitby to Goathland, a trip I'd definitely recommend. The bus is a beautifully-restored 1958 Bedford SB3 Duple Vega. (Bedford produced the chassis, while coachbuilders Duple supplied the bodywork.)



We drove across the North York Moors to the picturesque village of Goathland, most famous as the setting for Heartbeat and as Hogsmeade Station in Harry Potter. It was a winning combination of beautiful scenery, a vintage vehicle, and interesting commentary from the driver. 





Friday, 27 April 2012

What law looks like


When Parliament passes a law, the text of the statute may appear online but the original Act is recorded on vellum and stored in the Parliamentary Archives. Now in book form, they were originally rolls - the longest is quarter of a mile long - making for a striking collection. 

The Acts only survived the fire which destroyed the Palace of Westminster in 1834 because they are officially House of Lords records. While the House of Commons archives were almost completely destroyed, the Lords kept their records in the Jewel Tour which survived the blaze. 




Many thanks to London Historians for organising the archive visit, and to our guide Caroline Shenton who is not only Clerk of the Records but also the author of The Day Parliament Burned Down. Read more about the tour here



Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Buxton Memorial Fountain


Victoria Tower Gardens are beautifully located, alongside the river Thames and right next to the Houses of Parliament. There could hardly be a better site, then, for this fountain which commemorates Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, his fellow anti-slavery campaigners, and the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834. 

In fact it didn't move here until 1954, having stood until then in Parliament Square itself. The fountain was erected in 1865, the work of architect S S Teulon. (Buxton's son, a self-taught architect who commissioned the fountain, probably collaborated with him on the design.) It certainly has all the hallmarks of a fine piece of Victoriana. As well as the brightly-coloured enamelled steel roof, there is carving, mosaic, coloured granite, and barely a square inch without fancy flourishes of some kind. 

When the square was redesigned in 1949,  Victorian gothic was deeply unfashionable. The fountain was removed and the original plan was probably to quietly get rid of it. However, there were strong objections - particularly from the Anti-Slavery Society - and instead the Parliament Square Act 1949 was amended to require re-erection in a new site approved by both Houses of Parliament. (That displeased some parliamentarians: Sir Edward Keeling 'observed that the memorial had no artistic merit whatsoever, and he said that he hoped that it would be destroyed by the Ministry of Works.')

Despite its eye-catching appearance, the fountain has one major shortcoming: it no longer works. 




Sunday, 22 April 2012

Seaside Sunday: do not donut

Rather than overwhelm you with a solid week or so of 'what I did on my holidays', and in an effort to distract us from the variable spring weather, I'll take us on a visit to the seaside each Sunday. We begin with Scarborough's additions to my collection of alarming seaside food characters


If you look closely, this doughnut is tethered to his post by octopus clips. More naive readers might imagine this is to stop it being blown or carried away. Anyone who has ever seen a horror film will understand that the real purpose is to restrain it from killing us in our beds. 


This cannibalistic coffee bean is less obviously alarming. Or at least, he's smaller. Happy drinking!




Friday, 20 April 2012

Ghost signs (70): Yffiniac

For one small Breton town, Yffiniac has a good selection of ghost signs! Almost inevitably, there is one from Suze in its distinctive yellow and black. Traces of the distinctive bottle are still visible to the right. However, this example is a palimpsest: there are intriguing traces of another sign whose text includes the word 'qualite' (quality). Unfortunately, further details are difficult to distinguish. 


Should you fall for the alcoholic charms of this advertisement, the next offers a sobering thought (if you'll excuse the pun). It's a drink-driving advert similar to that in Plestan, exhorting drivers that Your car is sober, be the same.


On a brighter note is this incomplete but strikingly colourful advert for Radiola. They were an electronics brand, founded in 1922 and best-known for its radios. The key problem with selling radio sets was the lack of broadcasts to listen to, so the company also created its own radio station which began broadcasting in November that year. Programmes went out for just an hour and a quarter each evening, with an extra afternoon concert on Sundays. In 1923, other companies joined in funding the station which would later become Radio Paris.Radiola continued manufacturing radios and, later, other appliances including televisions until it was taken over by Philips and the brand name disappeared.


Finally, there was a little teaser: peeping out from the edge of a modern billboard was a painted trace of an advertising agency's details. That suggests an advertisement was also present, now obscured by its modern usurper.




Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Competition result!

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition to win Titanic Remembered 1912-2012, and to Carlton Books for generously providing the prize. The correct answers were:
  1. There were 13 scullions in the victualling crew. (There were also 2 separately assigned to the first-class à la carte restaurant.) Only five would survive the disaster; the names and fates of all of them are listed here
  2. The campaigning journalist was W T Stead, best known for his expos√© of child prostitution in London, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon.
The names of all correct entrants were submitted to a random name selector, which picked out ... Silver Tiger. Congratulations!



Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Competition closing soon!

The competition to win a copy of Titanic Remembered 1912-2012 closes at midnight tonight (British Summer Time).


Win a copy of Titanic Remembered. Just email MiscComp@aol.com with your answer to the following questions:

1. How many scullions were on the Titanic's victualling crew?
2. Which famous British campaigning journalist lost his life when the Titanic sank?

The competition closes on 17 April 2012 at midnight British Summer Time. 

The winner will be the person who answers both questions correctly; or, if no one gets them both correct, the person who comes closest to the correct answers (so it's worth having a guess!). In the event of more than one person answering correctly, I will draw the winner at random from all those submitting correct answers. The prize can be posted worldwide.

Correct answers are those which agree with the information in Titanic Remembered. My decision is final!
The winner will be announced on the blog on 18 April. Good luck!

Images from Titanic Remembered 1912-2012 by Beau Riffenburgh, published by Andre Deutsch, £50, available from all good book shops and online.



Sunday, 15 April 2012

Ghost signs (69): Middlesbrough

My recent holiday began in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, and how better to get in the holiday mood than with an assortment of ghost signs? Perhaps the finest was this Esso example, which has traces of logos as well as the brand names Esso and Essolube. Above the former is 'Pratts', perhaps the name of a local garage or - judging by this link - possibly an earlier sign showing through. There is further writing at the bottom, now more or less indecipherable. It appears to say something along the lines of 'When you buy ...' 


 Less colourful, but more legible, are signs for local businesses. Simplest is W D Old, Painter, Decorator, although further online research shows that there was originally more text visible


Arthur Thompson, auctioneer, valuer and estate agent, was established in 1866. The green of his sign still contrasts pleasingly with the red brick. Since the firm became Arthur Thompson and March in 1949, this sign may well be pre-war. 


Near MacDonald's, Watson and Son Ltd advertise as 'plumbers, glaziers, glass' although the words are now faint and flaking. The business, according to online directories, continues to trade - but has presumably switched to other forms of advertising. 


In an alley just off the main shopping centre is a reminder of the Second World War. As in London, painted directions guided people to public air raid shelters. Here, the 'ARP shelter for 367 persons' was in cellars under several local shops. Today the sign is unnoticed - I wouldn't have found it had I not happened across it on Hidden Teesside


Have you entered my competition to win a copy of Titanic Remembered 1912-2012? Click here for details!



Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Blog news

Caroline's Miscellany is expanding! This site and the Twitter feed are now complemented by a Facebook page here.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Titanic Remembered 1912-2012

It's near-impossible to avoid the fact that this year is the Titanic's centenary. The number of events and publications marking the anniversary are evidence of an enduring fascination with the 'unsinkable' ship wrecked on its maiden voyage. As someone with only a basic knowledge of the doomed ship, I was pleased to receive a copy of Beau Riffenburgh's Titanic Remembered 1912-2012 from Carlton Books. It offers a good introduction to the ship, the disaster and the aftermath; the book, boxed, includes a DVD and facsimile documents.


Sometimes, it seems that interest in the Titanic focuses so much upon icebergs and Edwardian luxury that the deaths of over 1,500 people are almost forgotten. (Titanic ice cube tray and anniversary doll, I'm looking at you.) By contrast, remembrance is the starting point here: the box is lined with the names of those who died. 

The book itself offers a broad, contextualised account of the Titanic's short career. Introductory chapters look at 'the age of the liner' before we progress through the building, voyage and sinking of the ship. Finally, consideration of the aftermath and the disaster's legacy includes not only the extensive literature and memorabilia, but also memorials and improvements to maritime safety. All the pages are rich in illustration, and there are a number of fold-out blueprints and plans, along with envelopes of facsimile documents. 

This is an engaging book, full of well-presented information including plenty of human interest. It probably won't add much for the serious Titanic enthusiast (Titanorak), as it aims for breadth rather than depth. However, it is fascinating for the general reader to browse through, with the facsimile items adding to the experience. 

COMPETITION

Win a copy of Titanic Remembered. Just email MiscComp@aol.com with your answer to the following questions:

1. How many scullions were on the Titanic's victualling crew?
2. Which famous British campaigning journalist lost his life when the Titanic sank?

The competition closes on 17 April 2012 at midnight British Summer Time. 

The winner will be the person who answers both questions correctly; or, if no one gets them both correct, the person who comes closest to the correct answers (so it's worth having a guess!). In the event of more than one person answering correctly, I will draw the winner at random from all those submitting correct answers. The prize can be posted worldwide.

Correct answers are those which agree with the information in Titanic Remembered. My decision is final!

The winner will be announced on the blog on 18 April. Good luck!


Images from Titanic Remembered 1912-2012 by Beau Riffenburgh, published by Andre Deutsch, £50, available from all good book shops and online.





Thursday, 5 April 2012

Ghost signs (68): John Campion, Merchant Taylor


This rather fine sign in Catford is largely obscured by the bank next door. As so often, this isi a mixed blessing: while it is now easy to miss and difficult to photograph, it has been protected from the worst of the elements. Indeed, the difference in shade between the upper and lower parts shows how important that protection has been. 

The sign reads:
John Campion, Merchant Tailor, Hosier & boys outfitter
and at Lee Bridge Lewisham
Broadway House for Clothing Hosiery Hats and Boys Outfitting.



Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Equitable House, Woolwich


General Gordon Square in the centre of Woolwich is dominated by this building of 1935. It was the headquarters of the Woolwich Equitable Building Society (remember 'I'm with the Woolwich'?). Founded in 1847, they had become the third largest society in the country by the early 1930s. These grand new offices reflected that status. 

The large stone building may have some typically 1930s detailing, but overall it speaks of the neo-Classical gravitas and permanence which financial institutions prefer to project. However, the air of permanence at least is misleading: the head office moved to Bexleyheath, demoting this Grade-II listed building to a mere branch, before a merger with Barclays saw it close altogether. 




Sunday, 1 April 2012

Blewcoat boy

Here's another in my growing collection of school figures. Placed above the doors of schools, they advertised not only the purpose of the building but also the uniform supplied to poor children lucky enough to attend. Whereas most other London schools seem to have boy-girl pairs, the Blewcoat boy has no female friend. 

Blewcoat School was founded in 1688. A statement of about 1700 suggests that this was done in response to the establishment of free Catholic schools in the area, with local Church of England members contributing to a public subscription. 

The school moved to Caxton Street, Victoria, in 1709; brewer William Green paid for the building. It was originally a boys' school, and only began admitting girls five years after this move, which presumably explains the single figure. 

The school closed in 1928, and after varied uses was acquired by the National Trust in 1954. Today, they run it as a cafe and shop. However, the fabric of the building carries a reminder of World War II, when it was a store guarded by American troops. Presumably rather bored with their job, they carved graffiti in the brickwork: the words 'US Army' remain clearly visible. (I can't claim the credit for spotting this - it was pointed out on a very interesting Blitzwalkers guided walk.)




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