Month: September 2017

Striding out to Stroud (2)

Having left Painswick in the dust I was now in Stroud. My goals were many, I had planned a possible visit to the war memorial, St Laurence Church, a hobby shop and of course the local cemetery. It really depended on time and weather and energy levels. Unfortunately my energy levels had taken a knock as a result of the unexpected detour. The sad thing is that had I stayed at Cheltenham and caught the 10H01 train I would have arrived here at the same time as I did after my extended walk from Painswick!  

You can read about Stroud on the usual wikipedia page.

Because I had not arrived by train I had entered the city close to St Laurence Church, and it was easy to find, just look for the spire.

The weather had not eased either, but I had come very far and was not going to give up that easily. Unfortunately seeing a spire and finding it are 2 different things altogether and I ended up passing a number of odd places on the way.  This handy map came in useful at a point, but unfortunately it is only useful when you are standing in front of it. I had wanted to start off with a visit to the tourist information office but that was based on me arriving by train. 

St Laurence Church was within reach and it too dates from many years ago, although as usual various parts date from different eras but it was mostly rebuilt by the Victorians. There is an extensive history of the church at http://www.stlaurencefuture.org.uk/the-original-church.html. Unfortunately, like so many churches it is very difficult to photograph the complete building.  

Neither did the weather help very much. The church was open and I was able to investigate it further. Unfortunately it has lost its pews and while it is still very beautiful it has lost its “character”.

It also has some very nice wall memorials but they are much too high to photograph. 

The War Memorial was surprisingly legible and I had to get a pic of it.

Unfortunately the churchyard was not accessible so I could only shoot over the fence.

Then it was time to head into High Street to find my next destination, a hobby shop where I was hoping to buy some ships. Unfortunately I did not have a good experience at the shop, they were not even interested in my purchases. Guess what guys, you lost a customer!

Parts of the town were jam packed as there was a Saturday market on the go so photography was not easy. But, after finding the loo I was confident that my next destination was do-able and I headed off in what I hoped was the right direction. Compared to my earlier walk this one was much shorter, although the hills were killers. Stroud has a lot of hills and I do not envy those who have to park in some areas. 

At some point I came to the Holy Trinity Church and my goal was just a bit further on.

Stroud Old Cemetery has 17 CWGC graves in it, they were not really my priority but I would photograph any that I saw.  When I arrived at the cemetery I was in for a shock. Not only was there a signing warning of Adders, but it was a regular jungle!  

The chapel is perched on a hill and that was a seriously steep hill too. So I chose a lower path to start with. I could make no sense of this cemetery at all, it just did not fit into anything I had seen before. Apart from the potential of meeting a snake with a calculator my biggest fear was taking a fall, the overgrown graves were positively hazardous.

As much as I hated to admit it, I was tired. My hips and legs were painful and my one sock kept on disappearing inside my shoe! I was not going to spend a lot of time here, because rationally there was not much to see. There were no real headstones that caught my eye, in fact headstones were very sparse. Grabbing pics of CWGC stones where I saw them I worked my way across the cemetery and probably got 13 of them. I am glad I had not made a commitment to photograph the graves here. A private memorial would be almost impossible to find. The view from the cemetery is quite spectacular, it is just a pity that the sun was still not out.

Then I had had enough and left the cemetery and headed back to town.

This was not a cemetery I will remember easily. 

I took a a different gate to exit and walked down a street of row houses, coming to the Holy Trinity Church once more. It was open so I took a quick pic and left.

There is a very nice old school building in the area and it has a very interesting clock and bell installed.

Town was still full of people and I threaded my way through the throngs, looking for photographables.

Stroud was “in the bag”. One of the attractions of the town was the colour of the buildings, the stone being quarried locally. It reminded me a lot of Bath Spa, but without the many attractions of that town. Make no mistake, parts of Stroud are very pretty, but I had not seen too many of them. The weather and time constraints had pretty much dictated my visit, and of course my unexpected detour from Painswick did tire me out prematurely. I would have liked to have spent more time here, but the trains were a worry. 

I believe the station is a Brunel creation, but it did not have that grandness of some of his work.

I was fortunate that I did catch the train when I did because the next one was canceled and that would have left a 2 hour wait. It was not one of my better train trip days that’s for sure. Oddly enough I did not have to wait too long for a bus from Cheltenham and was home earlier than I expected. Unfortunately I am positively bushed. 

Would I go back? maybe. There is a war memorial that I did not get and I would like to look around the town more, but the cemetery is not even worth considering. However, I wouldn’t mind revisiting Painswick, it was stunning.  

And that was my day. Pass the painkillers.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 23/09/2017


Striding out to Stroud (1)

When I was on my way home from London in April this year, one of the stations we passed through was Stroud in Gloucestershire. It seemed like pretty place to visit and I filed the information away for future reference. However, this past summer was a no go for excursions, the weather has been lousy and I have really missed hitting the trail. Somewhere along the line I decided that a visit to Stroud should happen and my original planning was for last week. I had all the timetables printed out and was really raring to go. But, the weather went icky and so did I. So I never went.

This weekend the weather looked promising so I grabbed my goodies, printed my maps and set my internal alarm clock for 6am this morning, The plan was to grab a bus to Cheltenham, arriving before 8.30 and then walking to the station to catch the 8.59 train to Paddington, bailing out at Stroud, in fact I still had my timetable all printed from the week before. 

The best laid plans of mice and men had it in for me though; when I arrived at the station I discovered that my train did not exist, in fact, had I checked the times before traveling I would have found that out. I was working from a timetable for 16 September and that train had been canceled today.  The problem was that the next train was only at 10.01, and trying to kill 2 hours at Cheltenham Spa Station was not going to happen.

I hung around for awhile and read and reread the Metro that I had picked up at the barriers. Then just as I was about to head off out of the loo an announcement was made about the train to Stroud. As usual I could not hear it so I head up to inquiries. The local GWR staff were evidently waiting for news, but by then I was browned off and decided to head off to Cheltenham, buy sausages at Lidl and then head for home. I went to cash in my tickets, and in the midst of that transaction GWR came to the party and organised a taxi for me to Stroud. A shining example of customer service. Thank you Great Western Railways.

 And so I headed off to Stroud with an amiable Turkish driver. The town is about 19 km from Cheltenham I believe, and is technically closer to Gloucester than Cheltenham. As we rode along we eventually came to a built up area with some really stunning buildings, and one of those typical Anglican Churches that I keep on bumping into. One of the places on my list was St Laurence Church in Stroud and I made the assumption that this was it and decided to bail out here. You know me, I am a sucker for churches and graveyards, so this was right up my alley. Sun? there was none, although the forecast said it would clear a bit later.

I was feeling very smug that I had managed to arrive at my destination, and could look forward to a day of photography and walking. In fact I asked a local what was the name of the street that the church was on. He looked at me strangely, and said that the church was not on my map because we were not in Stroud! So if we were not in Stroud, where were we? 

The village of Painswick.

I was still 5 miles from my intended destination! The local took pity on me and seeing my interest in the churchyard showed me one of the more interesting graves in it.

It belongs to the stonemason John Bryan, and I will be frank and say that while it is unusual it is nothing compared to some of the other gravestones in the churchyard.

The churchyard is amazing, it has one of the best collections I have seen in ages, and they seem to be unique to this churchyard. In Lichfield the slate headstones were popular, over here a ground level ledger stone with a brass plaque seems to be the favoured grave ornamentation. 

The real beauties were closer to the church and I have never seen anything like them before. Unfortunately time and weather has rendered them to be mere shadows of what they looked like originally, but even today you can still marvel at the artistry.

The local showed me one of the end faces similar to the two above that had been restored and I was astounded.

The parish church of Saint Mary  was open, so I was able to go inside and have a peek. 

And like so many parish churches in the UK it is a grade I listed building and parts of it are very old. Various areas were added on over the centuries, so its really hard to tie the building down to a specific date. It is a very beautiful building inside, and my photographs do not do it justice. 

And then it was time to face reality. I was over 5 kilometres from Stroud and there was a long walk ahead. Would I be able to do it? I had no alternative, there was no other place where I could get a bus or train back to Cheltenham. I would have to hoof it.

But first:  the war memorial. 

There are supposedly 99 Yew trees in the churchyard and a number of them surround the war memorial in the churchyard.

The problem was that I had last taken an extended walk of this distance in 2015 and even then I knew that my extended walking days were more or less over. I was OK with short distances, but long ones were problematic. Fortunately the route was straight forward, just follow the road.

Painswick was a very pretty place and I would really have liked to explore it more, but the big question was weather and time. My biggest fear was getting to Stroud and finding that the trains from Paddington were canceled too, then I would have really been in trouble. I upped anchor and headed down the road. Striding to Stroud. 

The countryside around here is very beautiful, although it would have looked much better if the sun was shining.  Large areas are of National Trust Woodlands and are ideal for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Undulating areas of pasture land fall to the Wick stream which supplied the power for the woolen mills which can still been along its length. (http://www.painswick.co.uk)

I have always associated the UK with scenery like this, vast areas of green and rolling hills. It is very beautiful. 

The road seemed endless and the only way to know how I was doing was the occasional peak on the my map on my phone. That road was long, but fortunately the verge was tarred so I was not dodging and diving oncoming traffic. At some point bells started ringing as I approached an area called Stratford Park which is where the Stroud Society of Model Engineers has their track. I had been looking at the map last night to see where it was and while I had not intended going there I took note for possible future reference; and here I was walking past it! Unfortunately it was not in operation so my luck was out.  

and then….

Finally!! Break out the bubbly! I had arrived!

forwardbut

Domesday Book entry.

Naturally I was curious as to what they say about Painswick in the Domesday Book.

Yes, it is illegible. That’s why it is easier to go look it up.  

A lot of odd things happened to me today, and I have to admit that I have a sneaky suspicion I was supposed to see Painswick, and I am glad I did. I would love to explore it more but it is not an easy place to get to. The churchyard of St Mary’s was magnificent. and my special thanks must go to GWR for excellent customer service, as well as the gentleman who took me around the churchyard and church. I often think that many times were are predestined to see or do things, and Painswick was one that I had to experience. 

Now, onwards to Stroud!

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 23/09/2017. Domesday Book entry courtesy of the Open Domesday Project, under the CC-BY-SA licence, with credit to  Professor John Palmer and George Slater. 


Lives of the First World War

Regular visitors to the blog may be thinking that I have given up on the blog. Be rest assured I have not, and this post will explain why.

Recently I started submitting images to “Lives of the First World War”, and it is a lot of work. I have over 8000 images of war graves, and a large number of War Memorials  in my collection. The majority of graves have been photographed in the United Kingdom and most have been submitted to the British War Graves Project. This is really an opportunity to marry up a grave with a record, and it is really a decision  that I decided to take seeing as I had all these images that have never really seen the light of day. 

Lives really is a series of templates that are populated from a variety of records, ranging from CWGC right through to British Census records up to 1911. However, there is no real consistency as to what records will be available for each casualty. In some cases even the CWGC record is missing, which is odd considering that technically there is a CWGC record for every casualty. Lives does not only touch on casualties, but on survivors too, and in that department I am totally clueless as my photography has been about casualties and not survivors. The one thing I do like is that many of the private memorials that I have photographed can now be linked to an individual and that record can be further fleshed out with the data on the private memorial. Unfortunately these can make for very sad reading. The one PM I did yesterday involved three brothers that were all killed in action, they were able to be linked because of a simple typed piece of paper stuck to a tree above the grave of one of them  (Sgt Evan Victor Joseph DCM, MM).

The other PM I have found today concerns Ernest Lute and Alfred Morgan. The latter had a sister called Amy who married Ernest Lute, who was killed in action on 25 October 1918, while Alfred died on 05 October 1918 in a Berlin hospital after being a POW for 4 years. Amy did not live long after that, as she passed away on 15 December 1918. The war ended on 11 November 1918, and she was the only one to see it, although having lost a brother and husband it is possible that she died from a broken heart. This particular memorial sums up a lot of what the war was about for those who were left at home. 7 people were involved in this case, and they are all remembered on this forgotten memorial. Whether Albert or Doris are still alive I cannot say, but loosing their parents within such a short period of time must have been very traumatic and life changing.  

At the time of writing I have “remembered” 1958 individuals and have created 53 “communities” where I have my images sorted into. The biggest being for Netley Military Cemetery with 528 “lives” in it. The nice thing about the project is that I am revisiting those places that I photographed in 2013 and 2014, seeing pictures that I had really forgotten about completely. 

Unfortunately the project is not that great a design, in fact I could rip it to shreds given how rigid it can be in the way it does things.  A good example would be the cause of death field that does not include a “died at sea” option. With so many naval casualties you would think that it would have occurred to them to have that option available.

And on the subject of naval casualties, it is shocking to see how poor the records are for the merchant navy men. Trying to find the correct record for a “John Smith” who served in the merchant navy is almost an impossibility. Just out of curiosity, there are potentially 113007 occurrences of the surname Smith, of which 1917 served with the merchant navy.  The merchant navy has always been an odd many out amongst the many services and corps that served in both world wars, and that is true even today. They lack the glamour of a uniform, but when courage was handed out they stand right near the front.

Amongst the Dominions; Canada, New Zealand and Australia stand out, with the Canadian records being the easiest to make sense of. There are lamentably few South Africans to research. I know from our time doing the record cards way back in 2012  the military records are sparse for our men and women, and even sparser for those who served in the South African Native Labour Corps.  The only real sources for information about our casualties is the CWGC and of course the South African War Graves Project

There is a community for those who drowned in the HMT Mendi and that constitutes the biggest grouping of South Africans in the project. I was recently able to have 151 South Africans added that are buried in Brookwood Cemetery, most of them died of Spanish Flu in 1918, although amongst the millions who were taken by the epidemic this is really a small group. Unfortunately only certain people are able to add in new lives, and that really leaves me with no real way to increase the coverage of our men. 

I will be busy with this for a long time; looming in my future are 778 naval casualties in Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, and I am currently busy with Arnos Vale in Bristol and the 363 casualties commemorated there. I can do roughly 20 in a day, although I am having a lot of fun with private memorials in Arnos Vale and they tend to take more time. I dread Haslar though because even the Royal Navy tended to confuse everybody with how they did things. One of the biggest problems in my opinion is that the British Army did not allocate service numbers to the officers, and you can realistically only search with a surname and a service number. 

So, if things are quiet that is why. I do get some sort of enjoyment out of something like this, one day they will probably start a World War 2 version, but the odds are I won’t be alive to see it.

View this as part of my legacy for the future, I may not have achieved much worthwhile in my life, but I have certainly ensured that a small portion of those who never came home are remembered.

‘When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.”
 

DRW ©  2017-2020. Created 17/09/2017, URL’s changed 29/12/2019