musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Bath

Pausing at Letocetum

On our way to Tewkesbury, we stopped over at Letocetum, which is one place I had meant to go visit, but had never gotten round to it.

Also known as “Wall Roman Site”, it is close to the city of Lichfield and it was an important military staging post, and posting station near the Roman military road to North Wales, and Icknield (or Ryknild) Street. Ryknield street is actually Watling Street, (the old A5), The road we parked on was the old A5. It has been double carriageway’d in the meantime and to make it a double carriageway it was diverted. The A5/Watling Street had a bend just to the east of Letocetum. Ryknield Street itself is in Lichfield, and would have extended towards Watling Street and formed a junction with it roughly at the point of that bend in Watling Street as mentioned above.

Like at so many other Roman sites scattered around Britain, there is a legacy of architecture and ruins left for us to ponder over. Although in the case of Letocetum, there is probably more not seen than what is visible.

Realistically these are merely foundations, although it is relatively easy to deduce the what the ruins may have been part of because if anything the Romans were predictable, they liked their comfort, they enjoyed their baths and they built to last. Two major structures were at this site, the Mansio and the bath complex. The bath complex is the building with the courtyard, it would have had a change room, heated room, an exercise area and probably a cold room, and a place where you could get a quick massage or possibly a meal while talking business with a friend.
The Mansio (or hotel) is the building across from the bath and it was where travelling officials or visitors could stay. (For a quick bath just go over the road).
This was a thriving community back then, a fort having been established close by in AD50 and probably abandoned near the end of the 3rd century; the bath-house and mansio being destroyed by fire.
It is strange to consider this small piece of Rome so far inland, the closest beach to Lichfield is over 70 miles away, and it must have been quite a journey to get here, especially in the days before highways, railways and modern vehicles.  I am sure the Roman in transit must have welcomed this small haven in a country that was not always as friendly towards them as they would have liked.
And while we were there, a child was attempting to do cartwheels on the grass, and I could not help but wonder if so many centuries before a Roman child was doing the same thing? That is the problem with ruins like this, it is hard to imagine them as being real places with real people living in them.
Some images were taken from the information boards at the site. 
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 30/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:42

Happy New Year

It is now 21H42, and in South Africa it is 23H42, almost 2015. I have had an interesting, if somewhat odd year, and up to a point it was going reasonably well. However that has since changed.

The year saw many highlights and lowlights too, these are a few of them.


I started my year with a bit of shipwatching, the Maiden arrival of Norwegian Getaway in Southampton.

And I made a trip to Bristol to photograph Arnos Vale Cemetery, and managed to squeeze in a visit to the SS Great Britain.  It was a great trip, and on my way to Bristol I passed Bath Spa, and decided to make that a destination for a road trip. 

My first exploration of that month was to Old Sarum in Salisbury, and it was one of those strange places that leave you thinking. And, there was a lot of thinking that month as we gathered in Southampton to commemorate the memory of those members of the SANLC who perished in the Mendi Disaster 
The 1st of March is also the first anniversary of my arrival in the UK. Time has passed, and I have seen much since I stepped off the plane into the unknown.  I also managed to get to Bath Spa and it was a very pretty city.  

In this month  I moved into my own little pad in Salisbury. Bliss, no flatmates, no shared facilities, privacy!! YES! But what a lot of hoops I had to jump through to get there. Unfortunately it was a longish walk to work and often I would start out in the morning and be worn out by the time I got there. 


My birthday month. And in mid May I took a trip down to South Africa to settle some of my affairs. To be honest I do not really miss the place.


I returned to Salisbury in June, and it was interesting to be able to consider the UK as my end destination, and not the place I was leaving from. I also paid my first visit to Brookwood Cemetery and the military cemetery there was huge. The largest congregation of military graves I have ever seen in one place. 


This was quite a busy month, my first trip destination was Portsmouth and Gosport, and a visit to HMS Alliance and the Royal Navy Submarine Museum which was really fascinating. 

I also visited Haslar Naval Cemetery and photographed most of the World War II graves there. Unfortunately I was not able to complete the First World War Graves so would have to revisit at a later date.

I  took a trip on Shieldhall down to Ryde, which is the longest trip I had taken on this preserved vessel. I was also keen on doing a trip on her to Poole, but I just did not do it. It was also my last trip on her for the year. On a shipwatching note, I was able to photograph Emerald Princess.  

On the 4th of August we remembered the start of the horror of the First World War.
The biggest highlight of August (and probably the whole year) was definitely the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red Memorial at the Tower of London.


It was a very memorable thing to see, and it was only probably a quarter of the way done. The images that I have seen of the end result have really been breathtaking, and I know it was probably the most effective memorial and tribute I have ever seen to those who never came back from the First World War.

I also made a visit to Tower Hamlets Cemetery, which was number 6 of the magnificent seven  Victorian Garden Cemeteries, and of course finally got to see the Imperial War Museum which had been on my bucket list since I was a a boy.

It was also the month when the Maritime Festival was held in Southampton, and to be frank it was not as good as the previous years one. 


Somewhere along the line in August I probably injured my ankle, and was not able to do much in the way of day trips. In fact September was a very quiet time altogether. The only major expedition I made was a return to Gosport to complete the World War One graves I had not done earlier in the year. The rest of that month I seemed to spend in a state of advanced vegging.


In October I started job hunting as I was concerned about the situation where I was. Fortunately (or with hindsight, unfortunately) I was able to find a job almost immediately in Basingstoke, and I made plans to pack up and leave Salisbury. Packing and arranging my move and finding new accommodation took up a lot of my time, and the only real highlight I had was on the shipwatching front when the worlds second largest cruise ship: Oasis of the Seas called in Southampton. 


In November I closed the book on Salisbury and at the end of the first week of November I moved to Basingstoke. It was also Remembrance Day in Salisbury.


And while on the shipwatching front I went down to Southampton to see Quantum of the Seas. This was the maiden arrival of this new ship too, and she was interesting to see.



That was the last bit of shipwatching I will do for awhile, or at least until next year, although that does depend on where I am.


December was a quiet one. Winter has set in and the weather has gone pear shaped along with it, although we have had some really beautiful days. Christmas Day being especially nice. I did three lots of gravehunting over December, the two local trips being especially memorable. I also revisited Brookwood, although I did not really have any specific grave that I was looking for. I do however have a new appreciation for it. 

And that was my year. I also had some finality on the job front, and from next week I am in the market (as they say). Whether I will remain in Basingstoke remains to be seen. My heart really wants me to go back to Southampton, but I have made no real plans. It all depends on the job market. On the gravehunting scene I will probably be returning to Brookwood, and I have a few churchyards on my list, I will also probably go to London one of these days to look up a few graves there, and of course to visit Norwood Cem. But until then the only thing I can say is…..

© DRW 2014-2018. Images and links recreated 21/05/2016.  
Updated: 22/06/2018 — 12:48

I’m in the Bath. A visit to Bath (2)

Continuing where we left off,   we had now reached the roof of the spire, and it was really nice up there. Noticeably absent were the hordes of pigeons that you would expect to be in a place like this, but surprisingly the flying menace was absent and so was their detritus. The view is slightly obscured by the stone work but the city stretches around you in all directions.
In the view above you can see the small door in the left hand tower; that is where the first staircase terminates. The roof is sheet lead, but I do not know whether is this the original lead used in the building of the abbey.
Then it was down again, and we went back via the Bishops Balcony, where he could Lord it over the masses below (who were currently shopping their lungs out)
The building shrouded in netting on the left is the Roman Baths, where I was going to go after the Abbey. It was a wonderful building, and well worth the trip. What always amazes me about these buildings is the level of ornamentation that they achieved, and the sheer beauty of a place like it. But then I expect that the sheer awe of a church like this would often be be used to make the population aware of the power of the church. 
From churches to baths, and the Roman Baths were just next door. Again I am not going to play history teacher, that is why there is an official website. The place was crowded though, you would not think that so many people would be interested in a bath in the first place! But then Bath has always been associated with thermal springs. 


It is a fascinating place, but as far as I was concerned there were just too many people standing aimlessly around listening to their audio tours to fully be able to enjoy what I was seeing. The problem was that they tended to stand in front of everything so that nobody could actually see what the object of interest was. 
This is probably what the Temple and Spring and Bath complex looked like around the 4th century. It is amazing how many ruins have managed to survive the passage of time, and how much thought went into their design and construction. But then the Romans seemed to thrive on things like that. Today the building serves as a money spinner, and a fancy new version has been built close by, but it is hard to imagine the everyday Roman citizen in Bath popping along to the bath where I was standing now, so many centuries later. They left a rich heritage behind them, and people are still discovering it today.
My next destination was the Pulteney Bridge and the weir on the Avon River. Both are really magnificent, and would be spectacular at night.
The bridge was built between 1769 and 1774, and was built with the idea that people wanted to visit shops on a bridge. That was unfortunately not quite true, but the bridge has survived and is a very pretty structure.  Just downriver from it is the weir, which has an almost wormholish look about it. I cannot decide if it was built like this to look aesthetically good, or whether it is functionally more efficient. But then Hydrology was never my subject.
The river loops around the town, with the locks that I had seen earlier forming part of the Kennet and Avon Canal. The Avon is quite an important river and is worth reading about if you are that way inclined.
From here I headed to the Royal Crescent which was the furtherest point I would go to on this trip. I was starting to tire by now so the thought of heading home was a very attractive one.
By sheer accident I walked into the Bath War Memorial, and found the Crescent a bit further on. It is one of those strange visually impressive structures that you cannot quite fit into a photograph. The image below is a 1500×577 version which should help to show the immense size of the building
Leading off from the crescent is “The Circus” which is a series of 33 houses in 3 blocks built around a central island.  It is a very pretty place, but I would not like to see what the rental is like. It was completed in 1767, around about the same time as Royal Crescent was.
Why is it that modern architects are seemingly incapable of building something like this? I know in South Africa they are obsessed with faux “Tuscan Villas”. My photographs cannot do justice to something like this though, it is best seen to be believed.

Then it was time to head for the station and for home. The weather had been stunning after my cemetery visit, and I am just sorry that physically I was just not in the mood for any more sightseeing. However, there isn’t much stopping me from making a return visit, but this time I will skip the Bath in Bath.  That was my day, and a mighty day it was too. Bath was beautiful. I really enjoyed seeing it, and will definitely return, although the only water I will take will be in a bottle!

Some random images.

Inscribed “On this obelisk, erected in 1738, the original inscription read “In memory of honours conferr’d and in gratitude for benefits bestow’d in this city by His Royal Highness Frederick Prince of Wales and his royal Consort in the year MDCCXXXVIII this obelisk is erected by Richard Nash Esq.””


"Erected by the citizens of Bath in memory of Edward the Peacemaker"

“Erected by the citizens of Bath in memory of Edward the Peacemaker”

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 17/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 19:36

I’m in the Bath. A visit to Bath. (1)

When I did my trip to Bristol in January, the train passed through Bath Spa Station, and since then I have been wanting to visit that famous city. With Spring in the air, and Southampton Station closed over weekend for maintenance, I had to change my day trip destinations. Bath was calling! bring me a sponge!
There are no military graves to use as an excuse, although there was a nice historic cemetery to add to my list, and an Abbey. Those are reasons enough to pack and go. An early train and I was there. The station image was taken in the afternoon because Bath and Salisbury were both blanketed by clouds when I left home.


I first headed towards the Abbey, although I was sure it would still be closed at that odd hour of the morning. In fact I was the only person dawdling around the Abbey Square. The Abbey did look promising though, it was a definite must see for later that day. I first had to get the cemetery under my belt. The interesting thing about the cemetery is that it was used to house the burials from the Abbey, which was becoming slightly smelly from all the corpses under the Abbey floor. Consecrated in January 1844, it was designed by John Claudius Louden who was also responsible for a rejected design for Southampton Old Cemetery.  It is not a large space, but it does have some very pretty memorials and there are stunning views of the surrounding hills.
The chapel is built over the crypt, and is in a very good condition, although it is not a very pretty building, it has a top heavy look about it.
There is one VC grave in the cemetery, to Rear Admiral Bythesea VC CB CIE. His VC action took place during the Crimean War, and there is a Crimean War Memorial in the cemetery too. Another famous burial is that of Arnold Ridley who played Godfrey in the popular TV series Dad’s Army.
Once I was finished grave hunting I headed back towards town, and had a look around the lock gates that lead into the River Avon (this is the same Avon that ends up in Bristol, but is not the same as the Avon that flows through Salisbury).
There are two sets of locks that I saw, although nothing was busy transiting the canals while I was there (much to my disappointment). Bath is part of the Kennet And Avon Canal system, and you can see in the diagram below, there are a lot of locks to traverse. The image below is 1500 pixels wide
In the space of 90 minutes the city had become crowded, there were people everywhere and black was the dominant clothing colour (as I had seen in London). Bath is interesting because the buildings are mostly a light yellowish colour compared to the usual red brick I saw in the other cities I had been in. It is probably a result of the famous stone that came from the quarries in and around Bath.
The Abbey was my next stop, and it is magnificent (as many of these cathedrals and abbeys are). The present building was founded in 1499 but incomplete till 1611. As usual I am not going to try to explain the history and symbolism behind the building but will rather link to the official website
In years gone by it is probable that the building was not surrounded my others so getting a good pic of the whole structure would have been possible (assuming cameras were around in the 1600’s). Today the building is almost completely surrounded and a complete image is not really possible. However, a lot of the detail is to be found in the stonework and facades of the building. The angels climbing the ladder are associated with the dream that Oliver King, the Bishop of Bath and Wells had in 1499.



The interior is beautiful, with lots of windows to let light in and all the usual features that make these buildings special, but very similar. The walls are lined with memorials, of which there are 617 wall memorials and 847 floor memorials.

The tomb of Jane, wife of Sir William Waller.

The tomb of Jane, wife of Sir William Waller.

I love looking at these memorials as they provide such an interesting glimpse into a society and those who died in it. Some or really beautiful creations, worthy of an art gallery. The memorials do not always reflect the place where the person was buried either, and in the case of the floor memorials the bodies have long been moved from the Abbey.

Unlike Salisbury Cathedral, it is reasonably easy to get a tower tour and by 11.30 I was ready to go; assuming I could cover the 212 steps to get there. The spire is the highest man made object in the city, and has a carillon of 10 bells. The clock face, being paid for by the local authority, faces their offices.
  Its a long climb to get there, in a winding staircase worn with age, and reaching ever higher to the top. It must have been even harder doing it without electric light! There seem to be a number of spiral staircases that lead upwards, and of course there are levels at the first roof, the bell ringing and c lock chamber, the bell chamber and finally the spire roof.
We stopped for a breather at the the first level of the roof, and it was not what I expected. (Did I mention there are no gargoyles?). The view is spectacular, although the space to put a camera through is not quite adequate. I doubt whether cameras were even considered back in the day when this was being built.  I sometimes ask myself why do I put myself through these things? I am curious most of the time, and I really enjoy doing it (although regret it as soon as I start climbing the stairs). 

As you can see the weather was wonderful and I was regretting my heavy jacket.  Inside the bell ringing chamber I had a much better understanding of how difficult it was to ring those bells. Seeing as there were ten of them it meant 10 people having to climb those stairs just to get there for each service!  

The ropes are still there as is the mechanical ringing device and the master clock and machine for playing hymns on the bells.  
From there we went to the clock chamber which is driven by a long shaft from the master clock in the bell ringing chamber. I could not help but compare this to the clock faces I used to be responsible for when I was a technician in the 1980’s 
Then we went up to the bell chamber, and it was a dark and “busy” place with its dusty beams and huge bells that were seemingly asleep. It was almost midday when we got there so we were in for a treat when the bells would chime the hour. I did managed video of the event, but must still process it and post it to my channel.
This is the tenor bell, and many many years ago it hopped off its mounting, causing endless problems for those who had to remount it. Bearing in mind that a bell like this weighs many tons, and getting it up there in the first place must have been an undertaking on its own. The bells were erected via a trapdoor set in the ceiling of the abbey underneath the belltower. 
Again you would need a lot of very strong people to climb those stairs, and to manhandle the bells up into the chamber and onto their mounts, and each bell would leave you with less space in the chamber to work in!
And while we were on the roof I must mention the fan vault ceiling that the Abbey has, I believe it is one of the surviving finest examples of this style of ceiling. A mirror has been left to assist in viewing it (and photographing it).
Then we had the last few steps to climb and we were there (amidst much panting and gasping!).  On the roof of the spire, which I will continue in another blog post as this page is becoming too image intensive.I will however leave you this image of the top of the spire taken from one of the roofs, and shall redirect your attention to the continuation of my exploration over the page.
 © DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 17/04/2016, more images added 20/12/2018
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:10
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