musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Heritage

Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival 2019 (1)

It’s that time of the year when all manner of vintage, rare, strange and wonderful vehicles converge on the town and show off. I have been a regular attendee since 2016 and the results of my visits are all buried in the archives of this blog (somewhere).

[ 2016 ]  [ 2017 ]  [ 2018 ] 

The problem with posting about the festival is that many of the cars have featured here before and finding previously un-photographed cars is not as easy as it would seem.  However, there are often new vehicles that catch my eye and I like getting those to add to my already impressive stash of vintage car pics. 

Unfortunately they have raised the entry fee to £7.50 and that may come back to bite the organisers. The changeable weather also played a major role in attendance and at one point it was touch and go whether we would have rain or not. Fortunately the rain stayed away and the sun did pop in for a look. The usual obstacles were also there, the people seemingly rooted to the spot, the aimless and lost cellphone users, kids doing their thing and pram pushers doing their best to bulldozer everybody over. Fortunately they did not allow dogs or we would have been besieged by heaps of mutts pee-ing on hubcaps and tripping everybody up. Oh, and as usual I ask myself: “why do women even bother attending?”.  Because of the position of the sun many images are taken from the same side and tend to loom similar. Realistically you can only really photograph a car from a few positions given the limitations of space etc.  

I have no real theme this year and the images are of cars that caught my eye. I am not a car buff though so identification of some may be impossible. The vehicles on this page have been identified as they have info sheets or badges that could be used to ID them with.  

OYE! you can’t park that ‘ere! Move along!

There were a few vehicles that made me ooh and aaah: the first being this really stunning customised 3 wheel Morgan. It was magnificent.

The second was this wonderful old Fiat 500 Topolino

and then there was this very stunning Nissan Figaro

This was also the first time that there were so many Figaros on show. They are nice little quirky cars and were introduced in 1991 although we never saw this model in South Africa.

(1500 x 535)

Naturally there were masses on Mini’s in all shapes and sizes, but two stand out for me this year: The first is a Mini Moke

and the second was this very nice Morris Mini Traveller

Other cars that caught my eye:

It is a Ford but further than that I could not find a model or date for it

Commer truck

Studebaker Commander

1848 MKI Dellow

Ford Country Squire Station Wagon

Motor cycles were not as well represented as they should be and there were a number of curiosities amongst them.

More cars:

Citroen Dyane (1969)

Morris 8 Series E (1948)

Karmann Ghia (May 1974)

Lea-Francis Shooting Brake

Nissan Pao (1989)

The British love the Volkswagen Kombi and there are lots of them that that have been converted into camper vans. A number of these were on display and you cannot really show them off in their entirety. 

Citroen D523 Pallas

Armour plated 1948 Buick Special Series 40

Panther Kallista (1987)

That is more or less the vehicles that I can ID, there are a lot of others that I cannot. They may be seen over the page.

DRW 2019 Created 19/08/2019. Special thanks to the owners of these vehicles for taking the trouble of keeping these oldies on the road for us all to see. 

Updated: 18/08/2019 — 16:10

Farewell Oriana

*Update: 16/08/2019.*

Today Oriana sailed from Southampton under her new name “Piano Land”. Stripped of her new P&O corporate branding she headed off to an uncertain future in China. It is possible she will be very successful in her new role and only time will tell. Fair weather and safe seas for your future Oriana. You will not be forgotten.  

The images below are all courtesy of Steve Carrett and are used with permission. 

Destored and with her new name on her bows, Oriana is ready to leave

Aurora is berthed behind Oriana as she makes ready to sail

That last glimpse of a great ship

Steve Carrett shot this video of her departure.

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* end update*

Ships are strange things, they  are sometimes regarded with fondness by those who sail in them, and there are plenty of examples of that affection. I am sure that nobody really gives a hoot about a mass produced airliner, but a classic ship is a whole different ball game.  Sadly this month sees the withdrawal of one of the few remaining classic cruise ships left. It was announced that the Oriana was to be withdrawn and had been sold for service in China in August.

What makes her special is that she was built as a replacement for the legendary Canberra and incorporates aspects of her design in her structure.  While she does not have the wonderful curves of the Great White Whale, she was a worthy successor, becoming more popular each year and building up a legendary following.

Canberra in Durban

The logic behind her disposal is a puzzling one, and there are a few possible scenarios: she could be mechanically troublesome, she does not fit in with the Carnival Cruises group “image”, she is getting on in years (she was launched on 30 June 1994), there are not enough balcony cabins in her, etc. We are not privy to these decisions, but we sure as heck can condemn them. 

My own association with the ship dates from 1997 when I undertook a short hop from Durban to Cape Town on her and I was also able to work on her as a baggage handler back in 2013. It was never fun to work on board her when doing baggage because you literally worked yourself to a standstill. 

A VOYAGE ON THE ORIANA.
 22-03-97 to 24-03-97. Durban-Cape Town

The announcement that Canberra would be replaced by a new ship was greeted with much dismay by everybody. The concept vessel shown to the media was criticised as being too much like a wedding cake and too little like Canberra. She was built by Joseph Meyer of Papenburg, Germany and entered service in 1995. Soon it was announced that this ship, known as Oriana, would be calling in Durban during her 1997 world cruise. The time had come for us to sail again. I was one of the first South Africans to book the short Durban to Cape Town trip, I phoned as the voyage was made available. Needless to say I took what I could get! The berth that I chose was a shared 4 berth inside cabin. This berth was guaranteed but I would only know my cabin number once the ship arrived, something that would play in my favour once she was in Durban.

Then it was time to wait and watch the exchange rate. The ship was due in Durban on 22 March, arriving in Cape Town on 24 March, a short 1 day and two night hop. By now Rudi had booked as well and we started counting the days.

Postcard view of the Oriana shortly after she entered service

As the sailing grew closer I decided that I would return to Durban on Symphony just for fun and went ahead and booked that as well. Now I had two ships to look forward to and an empty bank account.

Early in the morning, on Friday the 21st we departed on the long drive to Durban. Howard was at the helm and for once we made the trip down in daylight! The problem was that the grotty weather was coming too and we hit the usual rain at Van Reenen and all the way to Durban. Duly arriving we headed off for lunch on board the 40000 ton container ship, MSC Samia. before dropping Rudi and his girl friend off at their sleeping place. The rest of us made for the tug Jannie Oelofsen where we would be spending the night. There were not too many movements on the go and yet they were all very interesting.
 
Our last movement was to a ship which seemed really decrepit, its lines could not reach the quayside and she was having engine problems. On arrival back at the tug jetty we found Ken Malcolm, who joined Neville and Clive Bush on the pilot boat while Howard and I hopped on to the tug. The pilot boat headed out to sea to drop off a pilot at Symphony and one at Oriana. Our tug was allocated to Oriana, and with the weather finally clearing, we awaited our first glimpse of this great ship. Symphony waddled in first, looking as great as ever but she was soon to be overwhelmed by what was astern of her.
Our first sight of Oriana was of a huge white ship which really was not attractive when foreshortened. However, once she was in view and had turned completely then only could we appreciate her. She was huge, dazzling white and perfectly trimmed onto her waterline. Equipped with three bow thrusters, twin screws, twin rudders and a stern thruster, she berthed herself while the tugs stood off in awe. As far as I remember she was the second biggest cruise ship to enter Durban (QE2 was the biggest)
 
Dropped off by the tug we quickly collected the guys and we headed for the ship. There was no doubt that she was big, she towered over everything in sight and made Symphony look like a toy. We headed down to the gangway where I attempted to get the guys on board as Rudi had not organised a ship visit. There was no luck in that department, however I was taken on board to get my cabin number and booked in as well. I now had a boarding pass and could come and go as I pleased. I got off again and we all went around to Symphony to look at her, alas there was no visit organised either. Time was passing, and the smell of food was rather urgent so I said my farewells to everybody and headed for my newest ship….
 
The entrance is on F deck where the reception desk and bottom of the 5 deck atrium is situated. The carpets are a light green colour and a fountain gurgles behind the staircase. One deck up are  the shops with the Peninsular restaurant midships and Oriental restaurant aft. The next deck has a spectacular wrap around promenade as well as the Pacific lounge, Lords Tavern, Harlequins lounge, the casino, Andersons with its club like atmosphere, and the really spectacular Theatre Royal. D deck houses the children’s playrooms, Chaplains Cinema, library, The Crichton complex and passenger cabins.
 
The next three decks are devoted solely to cabins with the Lido deck right on top of all of these. Here is found the conservatory where the buffet is served. The two pools are on this deck as well as the gym. The deck surrounding this area has a jogging track around the ship while the entrance to the Crows Nest is found forward. There are three sets of lifts in the ship and they all work!. The terrace pool is situated on the promenade deck aft and the view from the sun deck down to the stern where this pool is, is really spectacular. The massive buff funnel crowns the whole package and is easily recognisable for miles.
The images below were taken in 2013 with my cellphone and I make no excuses for quality.
Surprisingly enough, the ship, in-spite of its size is relatively simple to find your way around. My cabin was on E deck and the number two staircase was just around the corner. Inside, the cabin was small but neat. There were three other guys in the cabin, one of whom was on his sixth world cruise and who had been on since Southampton. There was a fridge, TV, mini-safe and every other amenity imaginable in that cabin. The missing porthole was not really a problem. Once on deck, I watched Symphony sail and as she passed I could almost look down her funnel. By the time we sailed it was late and the light was failing and it looked like rain was brewing again. The wind howled us off the decks and we all headed below. There was very little vibration or motion on board and it was very difficult to think that you were on board a ship.
 
Being such a big ship, there is never any feeling of crowds of people, in fact I wonder how full she really was? There was quite a bit to do on board, bars to visit, shops to ogle, movies to attend and of course food to scoff. I had eaten lunch at the conservatory and if it was any indication of the standard of service on board then we were really in for a treat. I was not disappointed as we sat down for supper in the Peninsular restaurant.
The service was brilliant with two very articulate and polite stewards catering for our every need. There was food galore, in fact too much food for one sitting as far as I am concerned. However it was dispatched with great gusto and we all retired that night feeling somewhat bloated. More food awaited us at breakfast, again in the conservatory. The place was so big that It never really was crowded and the queues were quite small.
Our next visit was to reception where we enquired whether it was possible to present our World Ship Society plaque to the master. After some phone calls we were told that we would be informed, so off we scuttled, meeting at the jacuzzi. We spent the morning eating ice cream in the jacuzzi with a howling wind around us. On arrival back at the cabin I discovered that our visit to the master was scheduled for 11H30 and it was 11H20 already. Needless to say I could not find Rudi and I had some quick explaining to do to the captain’s secretary. The visit was rescheduled for later that day and off we went for more food! Lunch over, we were introduced to the master and presented our plaque. I was also able to grab a pic from her bridge wing, and as you can see the weather was improving. 
Once we finished off there it was as if we had accomplished all that had to be done and the rest of the time I spent on a deck chair on that glorious promenade watching the sea go by. After all, isn’t that what sea travel is all about?
 
The next morning it was up early to watch the approach to Cape Town. We passed Cape Point around 06H30 but there were clouds around everything and we could not see very much. We entered Cape Town harbour about 08H30, the tugs were spraying water and on the quayside a band played stirring nautical type tunes.
This time Oriana had lines on the tugs and she did not berth herself. A mediocre crowd awaited us as we slowly started our disembarkation. Once off the ship I met up with my lift and we went to drop my luggage before heading out to town. The ship dominated everything and we could see that huge funnel for miles.
That night in cold weather the Oriana took her leave, sailing slowly past us as we stood at the quayside, her lights were all burning and the funnel glowed in the spotlights. As she dropped the pilot I could see the tiered decks that overlooked the terrace pool. I had stood there not too long ago, now it was over and Oriana was on her way home. I had another ship to catch the next day, but would anything ever compare? somehow I doubted it. The Symphony may be a great ship, but she is not in the same league as Oriana was.
 
Southampton 2013.
I saw Oriana many times in Southampton, and the biggest difference that I saw was a “ducktail” that had been added to her stern. It did not enhance her looks at all and you could see it was an afterthought. I worked baggage on her one day and snuck away at lunch time and took the pics you see above. It was like visiting an old friend, she was familiar, but not as familiar. I never thought that I would see her leaving P&O at such a young age and I really hoped that one day I would be able to do another short voyage on her. My shipwatch entry for Oriana may be found here.  
 
Farewell Oriana, long may you still be with us and may you care for those who sail in you the way you always did. Safe harbours and fair weather in your voyages. You will be missed. 
 
 

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DRW © 2019. Created 25/07/2019. Updated 17/08/2019.  Last sailing images courtesy of Steve Carrett. 
 
Updated: 17/08/2019 — 07:09

Landmarks in Town

Tewkesbury has some really old buildings in it, and recently I spotted two new information plaques that had been placed in the town that highlight some of the history of the buildings in question.

The first I spotted outside the Town Hall.

The Town Hall

While the second was in the alley next to Cross House:

Cross House

Cross House is a real gem, and for me has one of the best doors I have ever seen. One day I was lucky to find it open and popped my head and phone inside to see what was behind it and was very surprised. It does house a dentist’s surgery so I did not poke around too much. 

There are other finds in town that at breathtaking and I will add more as I gather in the images. Until then..

DRW © 2019. Created 14/08/2019

Updated: 14/08/2019 — 05:38

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. 

Random Images

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. 

Random Images

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

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
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