musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

We’ve landed on the moon!

Today (20 July 2019) we celebrate that “Giant Leap for Mankind” that happened on 20 July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC.  Conspiracy lovers please leave now as this post may offend. 

It is hard to believe that 50 years ago Neil Armstrong trod boldly where mankind had never been before, and since the cessation of the Apollo program we have never been back. 

I was 8 years old when this amazing event happened around me, and unlike most of the world we never saw it happen live due to the “verkrampte” policies and mindset of the National Party who “governed” South Africa at the time. TV had still not arrived in the country so we really had to rely on the print media and the newsreels at the bioscope if we wanted to see footage. Like most kids back then I wanted to be an astronaut (Actually I wanted to be a sailor but that’s another story), little knowing what an astronaut was or did. All we knew was they rode in ginormous spaceships and popped into space and occasionally rescued scantily clad women from tentacled aliens. That was the theory at any rate, and poor eyesight, mathematics and citizenship ensured that I stood zero chance of making it anyway. 

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From a technology point of view the moon landings were one heck of an achievement, and I think global citizens thought that colonisation of the moon and outer space would follow in short thrift. Unfortunately the Apollo program only ran until December 1972 and once it ceased so our exploration of the lunar surface ceased too, and the success of the Space Shuttle was almost an anticlimax.  Apart from the men who were killed in Apollo 1 (Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee) and the near disaster of Apollo 13,  it was a successful program, albeit a very expensive successful program.

Apollo 11 crew: left to right are: Neil A. Armstrong, Commander; Michael Collins, Module Pilot; Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot

The list of things that could go wrong is a long one, and we are fortunate that everything worked and that we are all alive here to celebrate. There were schools of thought that considered that the moon would crash down on earth if we landed on the moon, or that we would bring back some strange microbe from space and let it loose on earth by accident. Science fiction is a wonderful genre to read and watch, but nothing like our reality. We never did colonise our moon or launch manned missions beyond the moon, although there have been many successful unmanned missions that have exceeded their original parameters and continue to provide tantalising glimpses of our galaxy. 

The question is often asked whether we would/should go back to the moon. Personally I think we have more important issues to solve on our home planet, and climate change is the biggest of these. Our spaceship Earth is a  small fragile place  when viewed from the “magnificent desolation” of the moon, and we really need to concentrate on fixing it for the billions instead of expending vast amounts of money to send a few men or women to the moon.

View of Moon limb with Earth on the horizon, This image was taken before separation of the LM and the Command Module during Apollo 11 Mission.

Technology-wise we could probably build the hardware but the paperwork, risk assessments and amount of managers and bean counters needed would make the Apollo program look small.  Besides, it is easier and cheaper to send probes and drones to do the dangerous work for us, piloted by some hotshot gamer geek who can “make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs”. Let’s face it, landing man on the moon in in the 2000’s just does not have the same impact as it did 50 years ago. 

Let us remember this achievement for what it was and ignore the conspiracists who say it never happened. Let us remember the courage of those 3 men who were so far from home and help that they were certainly doomed had too many things gone wrong. Let us remember the day the world stood in awe as we took that giant leap. And let us hope that one day long in the future people will see that landing site once again and I suspect that selfies would happen, like buttons would be pressed, statuses would be updated and vapid celebs will realise that in the grand scheme of things their contribution to our planet is zero, and that walking on the moon is way, way cooler. 

DRW © 2019. Created on the 50th anniversary of the moon landings.  Images are property of NASA and are not copyrighted but freely available for use. Images from https://www.nasa.gov/specials/apollo50th/index.html More information from  https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/guidelines/index.html

Updated: 21/07/2019 — 06:58

Ye olde Medival Festival Parade

Continuing with our Medieval Festival…

Day 2 starts off with a parade through town, usually just before midday. It is quite a festive occasion and kind of chaotic too, but the town turns out and the munchkins hopefully have fun and items of clothing go missing as do various reproduction swords, helmets and body parts. Its that kinda day! I parked myself not too far from the Town Hall, just looking for the odd scene worth capturing. It is in the nature of this sort of thing that participants get photographed, there is really no way around it. And, because the parade moves and photographer doesn’t many images look the same.

Things start off with the king/knight on his horse.

followed by a group  probably affiliated with him.

The sign of the wagon certainly confirms their allegiance.

Followed by the Tewkesbury Town Band. They are really very professional and do a great job.

I was watching this tall fella walking to the assembly point and I could see by the way he was walking that it was heavy going. He must be exhausted after the days events.

A number of large puppets and floats were also in the parade and kudos to those who carried and moved them.

Local schools also had individual floats or displays and it was great to see the kids included in the parade, at the end of the day they will be the ones who will have to ensure the success of the festival 20 years from now, and while some may have been bored out of their minds (and suffering from cellphone withdrawal) others were enjoying themselves.  

Mythago also appeared at the festival, and they are quite regular attendees and really good at what they do. Morris dancing with a twist is the best I can describe it.

This large dragon was awesome, and really quite labour intensive for the people moving it.

There was also a party from the Abbey, and they were covered in clouds of incense from the two incense swingers who seemed to have mastered the art of synchronised incense holder swinging. Out of curiosity,  the burner is a metal censer suspended from chains, and it is called a thurible (via Old French from Medieval Latin turibulum) and the altar server who carries the thurible is called the thurifer.

and then there was this fine vessel replete with figurehead…

and one of my personal favourite people: The Wild Man of the Woods, he is the widest travelled and longest running Green Man in Britain (accompanied by a friend)

with the Pentacle Drummers bringing up the rear. They are loud, energetic and their vibe has to be seen to be believed and standing up close to them is quite an experience. 

There is some footage of them performing at the parade in 2017 on Youtube

And then it was all over bar the shouting, with people following the parade towards the end of town, scattering in their different directions as they reached their turning off points. The Medieval Festival would still continue till later tonight before wrapping it up for another year. Some however seemed to have slept though it all…

Special thanks to all who participated and who worked so hard to make the festival a success. See you next year? hopefully. 

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DRW © 2019. Created 14/07/2019

Updated: 19/07/2019 — 05:16

Ye olde Medieval Festival 2019

It’s that time of year again when Tewkesbury dons its finest medieval garb, hauls the codpiece out of ye closet and goes gaga at the annual Medieval Festival.

The official website says:

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival is widely regarded as the biggest free Medieval gathering in Europe with over 2000 re-enactors and traders travelling from as far afield as France, Poland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and Germany. Many live in full Medieval style for the weekend and welcome visitors to the living history camps around the battlefield, King Edward’s camp on Windmill Hill, and Queen Margaret’s camp in Bloody Meadow. The re-enactors cook over open fires, fettle their armour ready for battle, weave, sew, play Medieval board games, whittle spoons, and a myriad of other things. In our large Medieval market you can buy anything from a full harness of armour or cooking range to a bottle of mead or a leather belt. We also have a large exhibition tent where you will find displays from historical societies and an exhibition of Graham Turner’s wonderful paintings which have featured on our posters for over 20 years. In the Bright Knight tent you will find Medieval inspired crafts and shows for our younger visitors. Medieval minstrels, jugglers, stilt walkers, friendly dragons, and bears wander around the festival site and there is a varied programme of events in the beer tent. On Sunday, join the people of Tewkesbury in a vibrant parade through the town. If you are a visitor to Tewkesbury, please take the time to look around.” 

For a few weeks the banners have been appearing in the town and I did a post about those last year and am not going to do another this year, however it really seems as if there are far fewer banners around than last year, but it could be my imagination. 

Ye weather outside is for 19 degrees with light cloud and a gentle breeze. and hopefully it will improve because I am heading out there after 12. I like to rubber neck the market and attempt to look at the many tents selling various goodies and of course admiring the ingenuity and fervour of those who go all out to make the day a success. 

Map from official website

I got to the festival site after 12 and it was not as full as usual, but that may have been because I was running early. As you can see below it was generally overcast and not very warm either.

This is the area of the Medieval Market and where you can buy everything from dodgy curry to a hand or two.

Many of the tent/shops were packed with interested festival goers and rubber neckers as well as the stalled dog walkers and selfie mob. I was considering buying a sword but very few had prices on them and some were just not viewable because of the crowd. Maybe next year?

Of course part of the fun is seeing the many costumes that people are wearing, and some are really fantastic. 

What I like this that there is a crossover of styles in a festival like this, and almost anything goes. 

The food stalls were chocabloc once again but I did manage to get myself a crepe for lunch, and this is something I always look out for because they are delicious.

The area where the battle was to take place was devoid of crowds and you could get some idea of the space involved, and from 3.30 this space becomes jam packed with people.

The battlefield (1500×710)

At the moment all was quiet as future participants wet their whistles or enjoyed some time in their tents and around their fires. 

Actually I enjoy this area because there is a “normality” about it; a glimpse of life in a tented camp while fighting wars for the king.

Somebody has not been doing maintenance on their armour…

My meanderings took me across to Queen Margaret’s Camp and the Kings Camp. This area is really where you get to show off your crown and goodies.  It also has tents where family groups are living while the festival is going on, and it is quite interesting too.

I am however looking for that definitive pic of a knight on the phone! 

and then I was done and dusted and was about ready to go home. I was tired and was not ready to hang around till 4 pm for the battle, the huge crowd kind of gets to me after awhile and I get tired of dodging dogs, people on phones, prams, and groups of people who are having a  convo in the middle of the aisle. Yes the festival is interesting but the irritation factor is high too.  This is the queue of cars near Aldi all trying to get to the festival…

That was it for the day. I may go see the parade tomorrow morning, depending on how I feel. 

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I suspect though, when the festival ends for the day this is how everybody will feel….

This way for the parade…

DRW © 2019. Image of map from the official Festival website Special thanks to everybody that put in so much effort to make the day a success. 

Updated: 14/07/2019 — 13:16

Holywell Cemetery

Holywell Cemetery is the first cemetery that I visited in Oxford and is one of two that are within what I call “walking distance” of the town centre. There was no real compelling reason to visit it either, but from a curiosity standpoint it was certainly a drawcard. It is situated at Google Earth co-ordinates 51.755681°,  -1.247123° and entrance is through a gate set back from St Cross Road.

There is not a lot to say about it though, so this post is really more of a photo essay than a long winded exploration of the place. The pics speak for themselves. 

It really is a jungle in there and it is done deliberately to encourage small wild and bird life in it. I am always in two minds about leaving a cemetery wild like this, but there is a certain beauty about it that is breathtaking. There is a small information board in the cemetery, although there we no leaflets available. I have split off the key and map from the board so as to see them easier. 

The only name that I recognise is that of James Blish, a Science Fiction author. I did not hunt down the grave though, the cemetery is way too overgrown to find anything in. 

The Friends of Holywell Cemetery was founded in 1987 to raise funds for the maintenance of the cemetery on land that was gifted by Merton College in 1847. The lodge was erected in 1850 and to be honest I really thought the building was derelict but there is somebody living in it. It is however very hemmed in by foliage and getting a complete image of it was almost impossible.

University dons dominate the burials here , and  last count there were 160 of them, including 32 Heads of Houses, but there is no barrier here between town and gown. Shopkeepers and tradespeople abound, with names which will be recognised by many Oxonians. 

I am not sure whether it is still in use, or when the last burial did take place but there were a quite a few newish headstones to be seen. Unfortunately some were buried amongst the undergrowth so I could not really investigate them too closely.

Next to the cemetery is is the St Cross church and it has quite a nice churchyard too. What is interesting about it is how high the churchyard is compared to the actual church building, indicating that the churchyard is very full. I did not photograph the church though, as it was in a very awkward  position.

The churchyard is not as overgrown as the cemetery, although that could be because it is situated on the street whereas the cemetery is not street facing. Which came first? I think the churchyard was here long before the cemetery.  

That more or less sums up Holywell. I did not spend too much time there but enjoyed it immensely. Its not too often that you encounter a beaut like this one, and without the mad rush of looking for specific graves it is easy to just enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this small haven away from the frenetic rush of the city.

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DRW © 2019. Created 01/07/20101

Updated: 01/07/2019 — 05:40

Oxford Castle and Prison

I am a sucker for old churches, castles, prisons and buildings that have that weight of ages hanging over them, and Oxford Castle and Prison really meets that criteria very well. My first real encounter with it was when I spotted the mound on my first trip to Oxford in May 2019. 

I flagged it as a possible target for my next visit and having an extra 2 hours to spend in the city I was able to investigate further. The first surprise is that you cannot just “climb the mound” as it is locked and is part of the Castle and Prison tour. The area behind it is not really visible unless you deliberately walk around the mound, and there you will find the buildings that comprise the former castle and of course the associated prison. The castle has its roots in 1071 when Robert d’Oilly built a “Motte and Bailey” castle in Oxford. A motte-and-bailey castle is a fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade.  The mound is really what is left of the motte. I am not even going to attempt to provide a history of the site, it is way too complicated for me, and its easier to read it off the Wikipedia page anyway. 

There is a model of what it may have looked like in the reception area and it may not seem very impressive now, but way back it must have looked like a formidable construction.

Most of the castle was destroyed in the English Civil War and by the 18th century the remaining buildings had become Oxford’s local prison. 

The image above shows St George’s Tower as well as the Prison D-Wing and Debtor’s Tower. Entrance to the building is just behind the 2 people in the image.  The building was formally constituted as a county gaol in 1531 and it was used to house prisoners of war during the Civil War in 1642.  The D-Wing was built in 1795  and the last hanging in the prison was in 1952. A new prison complex was built on the site from 1785 onwards and expanded in 1876; and this became HM Prison Oxford. The prison closed in 1996 and was redeveloped as a Malmaison Hotel.  

I arrived 15 minutes before the 11am tour so decided to take in the mound. The entrance fee is £1 but it does form part of the tour price anyway.  The mound does not seem like much of a climb but it was a scorcher of a day and that winding path was surprisingly steep. The view is not too bad, but I was hoping for a better view from St George’s Tower.

By the time I was done on the mound it was time for my tour and behind the narrow door we were met by a guide wearing the appropriate lags uniform (His name was Michael and he is recommended for his knowledge and hard work).  

Doorway to the staircase of the tower

A short talk about the tower followed, and it was more about the history of the tower and the suffering of the men imprisoned in it. Unfortunately there is nothing really to photograph and even if there was we were too many people squashed into too small a space. The upper area of the tower houses a water tank as well as a viewing platform which is reached by one of those infernal spiral staircases.  

The view from the viewing platform is much better although still not ideal.

From there we went through to the central wing of the prison which looked grim enough without imagining what it must have looked like with almost no natural light and poor ventilation. 

Underneath the building is a Norman Crypt that somehow escaped the various alterations of destruction, and it is one of those places that leaves a lot to the imagination. I would not however have liked to have been in there in the dark.

Then we went upstairs again to hear some tales from the history of the prison in some of the cells. It is doubtful that they were as clean and well tended back then and I suspect the pillory is a reproduction.

The debtors tower was divided by steel bars and it was here where you served out your time until your debt was paid, although how you raised the money to pay the debt if you were beyond bars escapes me. It too is a grim place although I do suspect this is not what the original looked like.

It was in this area where we heard about the story of young Julia Ann Crumpling, aged 7, who was sentenced to seven days’ hard labour at the prison in 1870. She allegedly had stolen a pram from a Mr and Mrs Edmund Smith of Witney, who had left it outside while going into a shop. She would have been housed in the B wing that housed housed women and teenagers.  Did she just make a stupid mistake by taking the pram? or was she really just a rebellious child? and what effect did the sentence have on her? Back in those days prison was not seen as a holiday rest camp and justice was served to young and old. The Victorians believed that prisons should deter people from committing crimes, with the punishment of hard labour dished out to crush inmates’ spirits.  You did the crime you did the time! However, I could not help feel empathy for that bewildered girl who was thrust into this terrible place. I was unable to find any information as to what happened to her after she was released so her future life is a mystery. It is rumoured that a young girl haunts the prison, it may even be her. Strangely enough she has reached out over the centuries and her mug shot still remains to tell us about her.

We went outside onto a small landing that butts onto a former (and more modern) cell block of HM Prison Oxford and which has now been turned into a boutique hotel of all things. There is a window through which you can see the interior of the cell block. Just what would the old lags have to say about that state of affairs?

and the back (or front?) of the hotel.

And then we were done and dusted and I looked over the exhibition in some of the other cells before turning my bows towards the exit. I still had a lot of ground to cover on this day and time was marching.

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DRW © 2019. Created 01/07/2019

Updated: 01/07/2019 — 05:45

Onwards to Oxford (3)

After returning from Oxford in May I was well aware of how much I had missed seeing in those brief hours that I had spent in the city.  That’s the problem with a day trip, you usually end up with a list that requires a whole week to complete. The weather has not been too conducive to day trips either until today….

Bright eyed and bushy tailed I headed off to Evesham to catch the train. Well aware that the temperatures were expected to reach the 30 degree mark in some places. Beggars however cannot be choosers, and I have to make use of an opportunity wherever I can.

There is the train now, better grab it before it leaves without us.  

My plans were as follows: 

I wanted to take in the Cathedral, Castle/Prison, Radcliffe Camera, Bridge of Sighs, Holywell Cemetery and everything in between. It was not too strenuous assuming that all went well and I did not end up diverting from the route. I also took more or less the same route as last time because I knew my way around the town by now. The major diversion was Holywell Cemetery, and checking it out really was dependent on timing. I had planned for a later train which did leave me with an extra 2 hours to get lost in. 

Oxford Castle mound was first on my list. I was really keen on climbing the mound but it had been incorporated into the Castle and Prison tour, so I decided to waste some time there. I covered the tour in a separate post as there are quite a lot of images. However, the area looks like this:

It is quite an impressive building, and historically it goes back very far and has been in use for a long time. It is also a very popular tourist destination and there were queues to get onto the tour. I was fortunate enough to get an early tour but by the time I left it was reaching jam packed proportions. An hour later I was on my way to my next destination which was Christ Church Cathedral. Last time around I had not even gone close to where the entrance was, and I was hoping to get it done and dusted this time around. 

You need to turn right at the bus that is stuck in the intersection to get into St Aldates Str which is where a million buses seem to stop and which is more or less the main thoroughfare used to get to the Cathedral, although the entrance to the building is in a different place. You start getting a sense of the building though as you walk towards the path leading to it.

It gets more impressive when you reach the building that houses the entrance

And yet again my luck was out as the Cathedral was closed to the public due to an event being held there. The closest I saw was:

This meant my timing changed because I was looking at an hour at the Cathedral, but now had an hour to kill, which made the cemetery much more feasible. I did not return via St Aldate Str, but had decided to continue along a path that intercepted Merton Str and and then onwards to Magpie Lane. On one side of the path was a cricket pitch with a typical English Summer scene, although typically nothing was actually happening. I bet somewhere there was a punt on the river….

(1500 x 529)

The strange thing about Magpie Lane is that it is access controlled by means of a single person at a time gate affair. It took ages to get through because there were queues on either side of it to pass through.

Magpie Lane

The lane led out into High Street and that was where I wanted to be to see the Radcliffe Camera.  and it is a very beautiful building and it originally housed the Radcliffe Library. The 16-sided room on the ground floor is now a reading room for the Bodleian Library. There were a lot of people milling around all over and a TV crew filming some gesticulating  disaffected person. I did not stick around to see what that was about. 

Close by is the famous Bodleian Library, and i spent some time in the courtyard trying to make sense of a place that I had heard mentioned many times. A copy of every book published in Britain is deposited here, including some two million volumes and 40,000 manuscripts. Its not easy to even consider how to describe it, suffice to say that in terms of accumulated history and knowledge this place wins hands down.

There is however a real sense of the ages looking down on you. I am not too sure who this chap is, but he does seem quite popular. Some reading revealed that this is a statue of the Earl of Pembroke. It was erected in 1723. Actually I thought it was a statue of Shakespeare 🙂 

Next on my list was the very beautiful “Bridge of Sighs”  that joins two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane.

At this point I need to make a decision. Time was on my side for the cemetery trip so I decided to at least go have a look and if necessary return on another day. To reach the cemetery I needed to follow Holywell Street until it reached Longwall Street and then look for the entrance. By now I was getting hot under the collar too, as it was a real scorcher. Everywhere people seemed to be moving house too as there were trucks of furniture and people with wheelie bags all over the place. 

Holywell Str

On the intersection of Holywell and Longwall Streets there is a reminder that often things became violent back in the old days, especially when it came to religion. 

Surprisingly enough I found the cemetery entrance, and if I had not been aware that it existed I would probably have walked past it. 

The cemetery is a jungle, but very pretty, and I would hate to have to go grave hunting in it because finding anything in there would be a major mission. The only “famous grave” that I could find in the list was that of James Blish, but I did not hunt the grave down. 

It was an amazing cemetery to walk through and I did a separate blogpost about it.

It was time to consider going to the station. I had 45 minutes to get there and turned my bows towards Broad Street, although I had one more puzzle to hunt down. I paused at the Museum of The History of Science for a quick look around but it just did not work for me and I headed out there after a quick walk around. 

In my navigation of Oxford  I had battled to find the main war memorial in the city, and by the looks of it the closest I would get was a memorial that was sighted on the intersection of Banbury and Woodstock Roads. That was fed by Magdalen Str, and was “on my way” so I decided to try find it while I still had time.  The area around the Sheldonian Theatre was fascinating though, and there were some really lovely buildings in that part of Broad Street.

Back of the Sheldonian Theatre

Balliol College

Magadalen Street was where I found that nice overgrown churchyard last time and it has a much better kept continuation to it, although I did not photograph it. In the distance I could see the memorial I was after, it was just a case of running it down. 

It is really a  generic memorial as opposed to a specific one. 

Inscription

Then I finally turned my bows towards George Street en route for the station. I shot pics as I walked, although did not investigate this structure below. However, I have since found out that it is known as the Martyr’s Memorial and it commemorates the Bishop of Worcester Hugh Latimer and Bishop of London Nicholas Ridley, who were burned nearby on October 16, 1555 after having been convicted for heresy because of their Protestant beliefs after a quick trial. It also commemorates the former Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, who was similarly executed

The station is not too far away and I waited 10 minutes for my train. There was still a queue at the tourist information desk so I was still unable to buy the book I wanted there. It was hard going against the crowds though, everybody was out and about and I think I will always remember Oxford for the hordes of people in it. Its a very frenetic place. 

Oxford was sort of in the bag, I still needed to see the cathedral and I wanted to check out the structure above as well as have a closer look at some of the other buildings in it, but rationally it is only the cathedral that I am after now, and I can do it and Churchill’s grave on one trip. When that will be is anybody’s guess though. It always depends on weather and energy levels.  So, watch this space for part 4 (one day)!

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 DRW © 2019. Created 29/06/2019

Updated: 01/07/2019 — 05:55

Crime and Punishment

In my many travels throughout the UK I have often encountered oddments that relate to “Crime and Punishment”, many of these would be considered barbaric in our politically correct times, but way back then it was a total different ballgame. The most obvious artefacts that tend to stick out are the village stocks. I have seen 4 sets (that I can remember) and they are interesting curiosities that are often very old. 

The stocks at St Nicholas Parish Church in Ashchurch, Gloucestershire

You have to admit they look like reasonably benign articles of punishment, but the opposite is true. Attitudes were very different in those olde days, when you were bunged in the stocks it was not seen as some idylic rest period. Perpetrators locked into them faced all manner of additional torments, ranging from weather, children, drunks and the real threat of mob justice. You could also have your clothing stolen and of course could have been pelted with vegetables, faeces, dead animals and of course verbal and physical abuse would have been the norm, especially if you were a well known miscreant. 

The stocks in Evesham, Worcestershire

However, many of the people bunged into the stocks were anti-social, or thieves or somebody on the receiving end of a grudge, and of course pissing off (and on) the church/mayor/town hall/local lord etc. would have brought the might of the “law” onto your head.  They were also not restricted to men, women and children could also spend some time being on the end of justice. There was no such thing as “extenuating circumstances” either. 

The stocks in Winchombe

England’s Statute of Labourers 1351 prescribed the use of the stocks for “unruly artisans” and required that every town and village erect a set of stocks. Sources indicate that the stocks were used in England for over 500 years and have never been formally abolished. 

Stocks in Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire

Another chance discovery I made in Salisbury one morning on my way to work really left me scratching my head. 

Some investigation revealed a plaque close by, although it was not all that easy to read.

And of course Salisbury also had a reminder of the bad olde days affixed on the side of one of the walls of a local building

And in Lichfield I spotted the plaque below.

and I spotted the following in Oxford:

Of course London has a grim past and if you know where to look it is often right in public view. One of the many macabre sights that I recall was close to Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial.

 

I was recently in Liverpool and was able to visit the local holding cells associated with the Assizes court that was in the building and it was an interesting aside to my visit. But I also came up close and personal with a items used in punishment, namely:

a whipping chair

A flogging frame

Birching was a common punishment handed down to young offenders, and a flogging with a light cane or a heavy cane was actually quite a common punishment in South Africa until it was abolished too. The barbarity of the act of flogging or caning should really be seen from the position of the one being caned or flogged or the person committing the act.  

Women were often on the receiving end of punishment, and the use of the “Brank” or “Scold’s Bridle” was an easy way to silence what were seen as nagging women, it was really about power though and subjugation of females. I have seen two examples in the Clink Prison Museum in London, but it is doubtful that this pair were ever used and they are probably reproductions. 

Children were equally at risk from “the law” and there is a good example in the old castle/prison in Oxford:

Julia Ann Crumpling, aged 7,  was sentenced to seven days’ hard labour at the prison in 1870. She allegedly had stolen a pram from a Mr and Mrs Edmund Smith of Witney, who had left it outside while going into a shop. She would have been housed in the B wing that housed housed women and teenagers.  Did she just make a stupid mistake by taking the pram? or was she really just a rebellious child? and what effect did the sentence have on her? Back in those days prison was not seen as a holiday rest camp and justice was served to young and old. The Victorians believed that prisons should deter people from committing crimes, with the punishment of hard labour dished out to crush inmates’ spirits.  You did the crime you did the time!

So far I have managed to visit 3 prisons/jails in the UK:

And they have all been grim places, and as a curious visitor I got to go home at the end of the day whereas this was “home” to the inmates. Many of those inmates were there because they deserved to be there; unfortunately rehabilitation is not always as successful as the authorities would like to admit.  

The military however had it’s own set of rules known as the “The Kings Regulations” and they were the official policy and were used as the  basis for “justice” in the military and to “enforce discipline”. A number of men were “shot at dawn” for offences relating to military law, and in many cases the trials were a travesty of justice.  Of over 20,000 who were found guilty of offences carrying the death penalty, 3000 soldiers received the death penalty and 346 were carried out.  The circumstances of many of the offences were often ignored by those who sat on the courts martial, and often the accused would have very little inkling of what was waiting for him once he faced the wrath or indifference of those in charge.

The British Army also used what was known as “Field Punishment # 1” which consisted of the convicted man being placed in fetters and handcuffs or similar restraints and attached to a fixed object, such as a gun wheel or a fence post, for up to two hours per day. Of course that was preferable to being shot at dawn. As an aside, the former South African Defence Force was well known for it’s iron discipline, and while there were no cases of execution by firing squad there were many cases of abuse by detention barracks staff and of course daily abuse by “instructors” of national servicemen. It was rumoured that there was an unofficial acceptable body count allowed for in training.  Had the SADF been allowed to use a firing squad you can bet they would have!

Our so called “liberal world” cringes at the idea of shooting or flogging anybody, but in some parts of the world these are still in daily use. 

However, in some “civilised countries” the “rights” of the offender seem to be overtaking those of the victim, and in the UK even slaps on the wrist would bring out a horde of lawyers and organisations dedicated to preventing of punishment of those found guilty of crime. Had poor little Julia Ann Crumpling been around in 2019 she would have probably have been sent for counselling and paid compensation for having been arrested because she was a minor. The people who left the pram outside would have been fined for littering.     

Crime will always be with us. There will always be those who consider themselves above the law,  and of course those who get a vicarious thrill from violence and murder. There will always be corrupt politicians and policemen, and alcohol and drugs will always remove any sense of right or wrong when used incorrectly. Thankfully a lot of the draconian punishment has fallen by the wayside and a lot fewer innocent people end up incarcerated, and these relics from bygone ages should serve as a reminder that in many 3rd world countries things are still in the dark ages and justice can be harsh and the dungeons of the past are still the dungeons or the present  

DRW © 2018-2019. Finally completed 13/07/2019

Updated: 13/07/2019 — 07:23

Victoria Gardens and the flood aftermath

This morning there were balloons in the air and I missed it!  The best I could do was this solitary balloon about to be attacked by a large bird. 

Later I went for a walk, hoping to find a suitable spot to launch my Pretoria Castle from, and did some looking to see whether the flood waters had subsided. This is the view from King John Bridge towards the Avon Locks and the Healings Mill in the background on the right.

and downstream on Shakespear’s Avon Way

Last weekend while photographing the flood it struck me that I had never done a photo essay about the Victoria Gardens. I was unable to do so at the time because of the flood waters, but this morning went walkies in that area to see whether the water had resided and how things looked in the area.

By today the water level had dropped dramatically and the gardens and mill were once more accessible. It was also possible to cross the river at the bridge by the mill. This is what it looks like from the bridge looking across to the mill.

and upstream towards town.

and downstream from the bridge. This high pond is really a sluice gate and somewhere I have an information sheet about it and seem to recall it is called a “Fish Belly Sluice”. Naturally I cannot find it at this moment to confirm what I remember. The garden is the tree-ed area on the left.

There are three entrances to the gardens, the one being from the area at the mill as in the first image, and the other two are in Gloucester Road. 

The Victoria Pleasure Gardens were created by public subscription to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. They were popular with the Edwardians and in 1910 a bandstand was installed which was in regular use till the 1950’s. The gardens were badly affected by the 2007 floods in the town and as can be seen winter flooding can inundate it. The garden is now taken care of as a result of collaboration between local councils and a volunteer group, “Friends of the Victoria Pleasure Gardens”.  The arches in Gloucester Road are signposted as having been erected to celebrate the diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June 2012 as well as Queen Victoria in 1897.

And to think that a week ago all of this was under water. 

On my way home I popped into the very famous Abbey Tea Rooms in Church Street. I have been wanting to go in there in ages but have never done so. It is a riot of nostalgia and all things eclectic and to be honest I think you would spend hours just looking around and still never seeing everything. .

My mother would have blown a blood vessel had she seen all of that, and then would have thrown it all away in a frenzy of cleaning. Fortunately the people there are much more far sighted than she is.

I can also recommend the food, and I may have to return because I have so much more to look at, but there is so little time and space.

And that was my day. Tewkesbury is busy hanging out the banners for the upcoming Medieval Festival in July, so soon I shall be posting some of those. But till then this sneak peak will have to suffice.

DRW © 2019. Created 22/06/2019

Updated: 24/06/2019 — 19:08

Not the Steam Festival we were looking for

Today (22 June) was supposed to be the Model Steam Rally held by the  – Model Steam Road Vehicle Society (MSRVS). Unfortunately a group of “travellers” descended on the town and were flooded out of their camp site. They then moved to higher ground and the area where the rally was to take place was vandalised, forcing the cancellation of the rally. I missed the rally last year as I was elsewhere, and was really looking forward to it this year. 

However, I decided to hold my own photo essay based on images that I took in 2016 and 2017, after all I do not get too many opportunities to see live steam in action.  The steamer are not full size replicas, but half, quarter and smaller replicas and have all the charm of the real thing but without the need for heavy workshop and a crane. 

There are not too many cars on display at the event, but they are fun to see, and I have to admit I have my favourites.​

That blue Zephyr is really a blast from my past.

There is also a nice variety of bric-a-brac for sale at the sale tables, and of course a chance to acquire a handy new hammer (or two). I always used to argue with one of my work colleagues about how hammers are so important that there are at least 2 songs about them!

I am not sure whether there is a song about scales though.

One of the exhibitors had a really complicated small town on display along with the associated vehicles and people. It was really fascinating because there was so much small detail.  

This is only a small part of the exhibit though. It was very difficult to photograph because of the angles and compactness of the display.  Small replica steam engines and trains are really amazing pieces of engineering in their own right, and a number of them were on display.​

However, we were probably all here to see the steam engines, and this is a collection of images from the three events that I attended. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed seeing them. Maybe next year we will be luckier.

Special thanks to all those who put in so much effort into keeping this hobby alive.

 

DRW © 2019. Images are from 2015.2016 and 2017. Created 22/06/2019

Updated: 22/06/2019 — 07:17

Leaf it to Miss Emily.

Autumn arrived a few weeks ago, and literally overnight the trees where I live lost their leaves following a terribly windy night.

Miss Emily was also bragging about her new wellies and I took her out for a quick pic session. It was not very successful I am afraid.

“Gee, just look at all these leaves! did you do that?”

“Me? Miss Emily you credit me with too much energy, twas the wind. Didn’t you hear it last night?”

“Now that was wind! I thought the house was going to blow away and wanted to start packing my hats and hair bows away just in case.”

“Talk about hats, where did you get that chapeau from anyway?”

“Ah, tis a school hat, I found it in a shop in town, it’s very nice.”

“It’s also a bit too small for you, or maybe your bonce is too big?”

“My bonce big?”

“Yep, a 5 gallon hat on a 10 gallon head.”

“That’s not very nice, I think I must go pout.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to pick up all these leaves instead?”

“No thanks, I will leaf that to the experts. Oh, I made a pun.”

“And it was truly punful to hear.”

“I definitely feel a pout coming on.”

“Never mind the pout, do you realise that a few years ago you made your debut amongst the leaves on the field?” 

“Yikes! what is with all the yellow? I look like a 46″ banana!”

“Oh I don’t know, I think you looked kind of cute, all prim and proper. Even your sandals were yellow.”

“That is scarey. I hope I don’t have them anymore.”

“No, I gave them away because they didn’t fit very well.”

“That’s a relief. Where is my hat?”

“You hadn’t really developed your own “style” by then. You were really just a cute dolly with a pout back then.”

“And no ice cream either?”

“None. You were more of a tea and biccie type of girl when I met you.”

“Wowsers, I am impressed with me. Such self discipline, so much catching up to do!” 

“Not so fast young lady. What are we going to do about all these leaves?”

“Sell them on ebay?”

“I think not. I will leaf you to think about it.”

It took her a week, but she finally ended up doing backstroke in the leaves..

DRW © 2019. Created 16/07/2019

Updated: 18/07/2019 — 05:25
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