musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Hampshire

A Rapid Visit to Havant, Fratton and Kingston Cemetery.

On Thursday I had a job interview at Havant, and most people haven’t an idea where Havant is. It is slightly East and North of Portsmouth, and is on the rail line to Brighton and Gatwick airport (in a roundabout way).  Getting there wasn’t too complicated, a direct train to Fareham, and then a change to a train going to Brighton, stopping at Havant. Fortunately my rail woes seemed to be over and I did the train trip reasonably painlessly. 

Havant Station

My interview was close by and I did not bring my camera with (which I regret), in fact I was not really intending to take any pics but just get everything over and done with. Unfortunately my mapping app had been upgraded and was now incomprehensible. I have no idea why these apps need permission for 90% of the things that they do, it is a very worrying scenario, and while I block as much as I can there is still way too many things out there that are a cause for concern. 
My first jolt happened two blocks from the station when I walked slap-bang into the war memorial. Situated on a busy corner it was a very difficult one to photograph given the angle of the sun and railings and traffic.  
St Faith's Church

St Faith’s Church

The memorial is placed in front of St Faith’s Church,which was a really pretty building with an outstanding graveyard and I was beginning to regret not bringing my camera. My phone has quite a good camera on it, but I find it difficult to use in certain light conditions, and in certain orientations. Unlike my camera; landscape or portrait does not matter, social media will display it how I place the image. With the phone social media decides how it will display my image irrespective of how I rotate it. I therefore try to only take landscape orientated shots.
havant066
 
 
My interview went well, and I will be going to a further one on Tuesday, and now that it was over I could look around a bit more. I was tempted to spend some time here, but the return trip to Basingstoke was a bit more complicated. I had to catch a local to Fratton, and from Fratton catch the Portsmouth train to Basingstoke. The timing was a problem though, there were not too many locals. Still, I had to get to the station first.
 
 
 
Actually, parts of it remind me a lot of Salisbury, there were lots of these really old buildings hiding in odd places. 
 
Once at the station my local train came in reasonably quickly. The train was a class 313 Coastways branded local  and it was quite an interesting set, dating back to the mid-70’s.
It was a quick run to Fratton, and I had been past it before, in fact, when I had first done the navigation for the Mendi Graves at Milton Cemetery I had considered going to the cemetery via Fratton, but that had not happened as I had gotten a lift instead.
Fratton is close to two major cemeteries in Portsmouth: Milton and Kingston, and both are in walking distance of the station. I weighed the odds, and decided  that seeing as I had some time to spare I would head off to the closest of the two, which you could see from the train. 
 
It was not a very long walk, the road runs parallel to the railway line, although you do need to make a bit of a detour to get to the road first. The area was residential, lined with a row of terrace houses, curving away into the distance on either side of the street.
  
Fraton had also been a large railway depot, so many years back these houses and area would have been the homes of blue collar workers, and the air pollution would have been formidable. Today the air is probably much cleaner, although now there are cars lining the street. 
 
The cemetery was easily reached, and the entrance I went in has a very nice gate and lodge, and my intention was to photograph those on my way out again. .  
 
Almost immediately I spotted the two chapels, and they were in a wonderful condition. It is always nice to see intact chapels, far too many of them have been demolished over the years.
  
My intention was to photograph as many graves as I could and go as far into the cemetery as was feasible in roughly an hour. I had no idea how many CWGC graves there were, but I was going to try get at least 100 in the short time that I had.  The standard of graves was varied, although a lot in the area where I was had old stones, and many of them were of poor legibility. I was not too interested in photographing headstones though, only the CWGC graves and they were scattered all through the cemetery
The cemetery was laid out reasonably easily in that there were pathways and that made things easier because I could work my way through an area and did not have to remember if I had been there before or not.

 
As I walked the lines I realised that an hour would not even get me close to the 567 CWGC graves in the cem, in fact this was a major expedition type cemetery rather than a quick photography session.  I was taking two shots of each grave just in case my focusing skills were bad, I had found that my camera occasionally struggled to focus on the more rough standard white headstones so I always tried to get two shots of each stone and then choose which was the better image. 
 
And like Southampton, Portsmouth had lost a lot of its property and citizens during the wartime bombing of the city. A memorial commemorates those who lost their lives in the bombing.
  
It is quite sobering to look back on this period in England and the effect that the bombing had on the country. Southampton and Portsmouth were big targets for the Luftwaffe and Portsmouth is home to the Naval Dockyard and it was a major target, unfortunately bombs often ended up hitting civilian targets and that is why memorials such as this exist.
  
The photography was going well, although time was marching and I really needed to start heading back to the station, and this is where it gets difficult. The quandary is that often you may never come this way again, and those remaining graves may never be photographed. Yet realistically the odds of grabbing them all in such a haphazard way was very small. Ideally you need a list and to work your way through the cemetery, ticking off as you go. Private memorials would always be problematic though, and they would need extra time. As it is I did manage to find two pm’s that were not on the list, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many more. Portsmouth was a naval town, and Haslar Military Hospital and Cemetery was not too far away, there were a lot of sailors living in this town. 
 
 
At some point I reached an area where the flowers were blooming in the first throes of spring, and it was very pretty. I spotted two lines of graves and headed towards it, deciding that there would be the last I would take before heading home. I grabbed my pics, said my farewells and headed to the entrance. I was not even halfway through the cemetery, but I had to call it quits. I had a train to catch.

As I walked to the gate I snapped pics, grabbing some interesting memorials to look at later, it was actually quite a pleasant cemetery, and one that I would have liked to see completely, but maybe I shall get to do that if my job interview was successful.

 

It was also getting chilly, and my shoes were in danger of falling apart too. I would have to make a plan in that regard when I got home.

 

When I crossed the street I took one last pic of the gate and headed towards the station. There was a nice looking church in the distance but I did not really have time to go see it.

 
And that is when I realised there was a problem. A warning message was flashing on my screen, complaining about running out of storage. By my reckoning I had taken roughly 200 images, and I had a lot of space on the memory card. I would have to check this when I was on the train.  By default my images are saved to the sd card and not the internal storage of the phone, but there was ample space on the card, even my camera has not been able to fill up the 8GB card it has. Upon investigation it turns out the the camera was disregarding the setting and doing its own thing, filling up the internal storage instead of the external as it was set up to do. This could be disasterous.
 
When I got home I pulled all the images off the phone and discovered that not too many images had been lost, although the last two graves of the row of 20 had not come out and anything after that was missing. I had managed to get over 80 of the graves anyway, which is far short of the 567 in the cemetery. I do not know why the camera had not used the sd card like it was set up to do. Surprisingly enough the images had come out very well, and if it wasn’t for this possibility of loosing the images I would use the phone again, although the camera is easier in the long run.
 
It had been a great visit though, and I am determined that at some point I must try to return to Portsmouth to grab more graves. The city has a lot of casualties listed on memorials, the Naval Memorial at Southsea has 24598 names on it, and there is still the war memorial as well as three cemeteries in the city.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial viewed from the Solent

I have always wanted to explore the city more, but never did, apart from my occasional visits to the dockyard. I had been to MIlton and Highland Road Cemetery too, and the latter was a great experience because it had a lot of very historic headstones in it, that alone makes it an attractive destination.  Maybe one day?
 
© DRW. 2015-2018. Created 14/03/2015. Images migrated 27/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:19

Snow way! its white outside

I worked late on Friday evening, and on my walk home (at 00H10) I thought to myself that it wasn’t too cold and the sky was very clear with a bright moon. I even took some quick pics over the wall at the cemetery as an experiment (which did not work too good btw).
 
On Saturday morning, when I woke up I looked sleepily out of the window and it had snowed! It was white outside and definitely camera time. 

Granted there was not a lot of snow, but it was a nice smooth surface and after I had dressed I haphazardly headed out there. I really wanted to do a “cemetery in the snow” shoot if I was able, but I first needed a good recce on what the conditions were like outside.

My intention was to go check out the local football field and see what that was like, but it turned out to be a damp squib as there was not too much coverage there.

It was time to go home and grab my shopping bag and go to the shops, as I had to go past the cemetery to get there (conveniently). And of course, any useful images would help too. My flatmate said that when they had gone to the loo at 3am it had been snowing, so the fall was about 5 hours old.

And the local playpark was under snow too, although it did look like people had beaten me to it, as there were tracks leading to and from the park.

And then I was at Holy Ghost Cemetery. There hadn’t really been enough snow to give me the effect I wanted, but it was an interesting glimpse. Maybe another time? It is February now so anything can still happen between now and Spring. I remember seeing flurries in March 2013…..

Ok, now if somebody would just turn off the wind today.

© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 25/04/2016

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:41

A visit to Sherborne St John

While the weather is reasonable I started to tackle the graves that I could assist the British War Graves Project with. One of the places on this list is Sherborne St John, a small (and really old) village roughly 1,8 miles from where I live. Its not an impossible walk, but a blocked road meant I had to make a considerable detour from my planned route.  The walk was a bit dangerous, taking me through country lanes that have no pavements or places to dive into when about to be run over by a maniac on a cellphone driving a German sedan.
 
The area became rural very quickly, and very pretty too. It always amazes me how different the UK is from back in SA. I kind of like the all pervading green; in South Africa the grass would have been dry and dead and dismal. In the UK it is green and lush and kinda muddy underfoot. My target was St Andrews Churchyard, with two CWGC graves in it, one of which was a Canadian nurse. Fortunately navigation within Sherborne St John was straight forward and before I knew it I was at the church.
  
I am really becoming a fan of these lytchgates, some are really beautiful, and this one was no exception. This particular one had a brass plaque on it,which made me think about how much has passed through that small wooden construction, and how many only made the passage in one direction?  
 
The churchyard was startlingly beautiful, it was just one of those places that took my breath away. I am always amazed to see some of those old graveyards and churches, the sense of history you get once you stand amongst the headstones is just so amazing. It is just so difficult to imagine the lives of those who are buried here so many years after the fact. Of course it is not only the lives of the people, but the country that they lived in which has changed,  they could never have imagined the era we are in now, but it is equally difficult to transpose yourself backwards through time to walk these pathways and see these headstones when they were newly laid.
sherborne_st_john 028
 
 
The church itself does not seem too old, although it is always very difficult to date these buildings. However, it appears as if a  church seems to have been built here about the year 1150, the chancel being rebuilt in the middle of the 14th century. The tower was added in the 14th century, but was almost wholly rebuilt in 1837. The north aisle is an addition of 1854; the chancel roof was restored in 1866, and in 1884 a thorough restoration was undertaken.(http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hants/vol4/pp158-171)

My first CWGC grave was easy to find, the distinctive headstone against a hedge did not really need much looking for. However, the second would be more difficult as it was a private memorial, which meant I could be looking for anything. Fortunately I found my nurse, and was able to photograph her grave so very far from her home. I am especially fond of finding graves like this because the families may never have seen these graves, and its only since photography has become cheap and easy that we are able to finally take the photographs, but unfortunately too many years too late.

My original Google Earth view had indicated that there was an additional cemetery/churchyard not 100 metres from the church, and it was probably an overflow from the original graveyard. I headed towards this next.

My supposition was correct, and the graves here are relatively modern, although some of the headstones really look as if they are much older. The row of Yews encompasses a war memorial which I photographed too. These memorials often contain names that do not always exist on Rolls of Honour and its always a good idea to have the names off them.
That was it. Time to head back home. My route would take me past the local duck pond to quack at the local ducks. They probably thought I was quackers.
And back through the churchyard for more pics before finding my way to the bottom of the churchyard where I had spotted a small solitary headstone 

My initial thought was that it was the headstone of a child, or possibly a dissenter, however I did find other graves there, and it was very possible that it was the footstone of a grave, the headstone having been toppled. That’s part of the frustration about gravehunting; there are just no hard and fast answers to any questions that you may have.  This wooden fence was interesting though because there were graves on either side of it, which led me to think that it may have been a paupers or dissenters area. The answer is probably buried in history, and I would not have an answer on this day. Time was marching and I still had to get home before the light started to fade.

I was very tempted to root around in the area a bit more, but I decided to leave it for another day. I have another graveyard to explore in a village close by, and just maybe I will be able to include a return visit to this one too. I know I would love to get into the church.

And that was it. I was on my way home. It was a fantastic graveyard, with some really beautiful headstones and the inevitable mystery. And of course there were family plots, and soldiers and lichen, and that made it my sort of place.

Update: 25 December 2014.
Following on from my trip to Monk Sherborne on Christmas, I wanted to update this post slightly. The church is not too far from there, and I came home via Sherborne St John as I wanted to see if it was possible to see the inside of the church. A service was in progress when I arrived, but ended shortly thereafter. I was able to get into the church, and it was really very pretty, but could not take any pics because another service was due to start almost immediately.  There are two separate war memorials in the church and I may see about heading out there again one day to get pics of them. The one odd thing I saw was 4 scooters “parked” close to the gate, and parishioners walking back from the service. It brought back many memories from when we used to attend church back when I was young, although the clothing was much more sombre and less colourful amongst the people. I am not quite finished here yet, there may be another update one of these days.

 
© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 21/04/2014

 

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:37

Worting Road Cemetery, Basingstoke

This fine winters morning I decided that it was time to head off to Worting Road Cemetery in Basingstoke, as far as I can tell this was the cemetery used once the old Holy Ghost Cemetery was full. The latter was a magnificent cemetery, but Worting Road would turn out to be a disappointment.
 
All of the signs were there that I was going to not enjoy this visit, my GPS that took me along a path that did not go anywhere, the odd detours I had to make that seemingly did not make sense, and of course my ankle that was playing up once again. Oh, and did I mention flat camera batteries? Of course not. That is why I have four sets of batteries. Eventually, I found the cem after a long schlep through unfamiliar territory, and the first thing I saw was the Cross of Sacrifice. The cemetery has 54 CWGC graves in it, of which a number are of German nationals, presumably POW’s who died in the UK. 


The CWGC graves are to the right of the Cross of Sacrifice, and are laid out in a small plot, although there are other graves interspersed within the cemetery.

The cemetery has been photographed before so I did not really concentrate too much on the CWGC graves, but headed across to see what I could see amongst the many headstones.

To be frank, at a glance there wasn’t a lot too see. The headstones were mostly low and there were not too many really old ones that I could spot. A number had warning labels on them with a piece of wood holding them up. This poor chap was looking quite unperturbed by his new support structure.

In fact statues were quite rare, and the only real grave that made me stop and look was this one.

These are awfully melodramatic, and have to be seen to be believed.  The grass is still covered in frost from the previous night, and by the time I headed home at 2.30 there was still frost in a number of places in the area where I live.

The chapel is a very pretty building, although not very big. Like Holy Ghost Cem it is very neat and tidy and the grass has been cut and the paths are well tended. 

In fact I was beginning to feel as if this was really somewhat of a humdrum sort of place, with no real reason to return to. I usually say it is an ok cem, but not a great one.

Some cemeteries just stand out in your memory, but I am afraid this is not one of them. There was one nice touch that I did like about it though, a small memorial to the unmarked graves of children in Holy Ghost and this one.

It is a nice touch, and I know that often I come across small graves of children that have long passed on and are all but forgotten, at least this gesture is some sort of acknowledgement of those lives that never reached fruition.

Then it was time to go. There was no real reason to stay any longer, and I doubt if I will return unless it is on my way elsewhere. This expedition did result in me having a bit of a better understanding of the layout of the city, and my next expedition will hopefully be to the museum which is not too far from here. But until then I shall leave you with this slightly pained expression.

The problem with this cemetery is that it seems to lack character. Which is a pity because it then ends up fading into memory and becomes just another statistic.

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 21/04/2016

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:44

Basingstoke Holy Ghost Cemetery

It’s true, I have a new favourite cemetery: Basingstoke Holy Ghost Cemetery. I spent a pleasurable hour there this morning while home hunting, and it is magnificent. It is seldom that you get a bit of everything in a cemetery, this one had most of it.
 
The entrance I used was in Kingsclere Road, and the lodge there is a real beauty. The building dates from 1865, and the cemetery is also known as Basingstoke South View, or Old Cemetery.

 

Once through the gates there is a short slope and the cemetery is there in all its glory. The information board says that this was the towns burial ground from the 13th century to the early 20th century. The cemetery is full, but there are not too many headstones, the balance of the space is taken up by unmarked graves.  There are 20 CWGC graves in the cemetery, including the grave of Capt. John Aidan Liddell VC.

 

There are not too many statues, but there are lots of very pretty headstones, and there was one anomaly that I have not before.

I don’t know if this was a footstone that was transplanted, or whether this was one way to commemorate more than one person in the same grave. Many of the smaller headstones only had initials and a date on them. I have not seen this before, so it may just be a peculiarity of the area. 

 
The cemetery also boasts of a Quaker burial ground, and I really had to search to find it, although it was right under my nose. Badly overgrown, the graves stand behind what are known as “tank blocks”
 
These date from World War 2, and were used to protect the nearby railway station. The small headstone and small green covered mounds in the image above are the Quaker graves.  Close to these graves are the chapel ruins, and these are definitely interesting. There are two distinct sets of ruins here, the lower one was built in the early 13th century, and was dedicated to the Holy Ghost. All that remains are the west wall and the door.
 
The larger set of ruins is that of Sir William Sandys Holy Trinity Chapel, its origins are from the 15th century,  it was built as a place for Sir William Sandys to bury his family. 
 
Albeit more intact the chapel suffered during the English Civil War when the stained glass windows were removed. The chapel is now in a state of magnificent dereliction, its floor still covered in the engraved slabs used as floor monuments in many of the cathedrals I have seen. The complex also served as a grammar school until 1855, when a new school was built close by.

The tower is gated closed, but inside it are some more headstones, although why they are imprisoned in here is anybody’s guess.

 
 
There are two weathered tombs with effigies of knights on them, this one is possibly the tomb of Sir William De Brayboeuf, and dates from 1284.
 
No cemetery would be complete without a great tree, and this one is no exception to the rule, a really magnificent specimen lightened up my day with its beautiful colours and sheer grace. 
 
  
It is now November so Autumn is here and the light during this session was fantastic.
 
There was only one really good statue, and it was in quite a good condition too, although a bit too high for my liking.  The headstones were generally in a good condition, although many were no longer legible. Delamination had occurred on a number of them, rendering them unreadable.

 
There were quite a few chest tombs, and of course I kept on coming back to those wonderful floor monuments in the chapel ruins. I do need to investigate at least 2 of them as they relate to the Sandys Family.
 
 
The oldest one that I noted was from 1700, and I am sure that there may even be older, but age and weathering really takes its toll so legibility is often poor with these. 
 
 
And then it was time to start making tracks and head off to my next destination. As I will be moving to Basingstoke during November I will probably be returning here. With Winter approaching the chances of catching this cemetery in snow increases, and I know it is really one that is worth the effort. It is really a beautiful space. 
Random Images.
 

And finally, on my way out I discovered this gem.

 
How many cemeteries can boast of something like this? not too many I assure you (although they probably do have, but don’t boast about it)
 

Update: 31 January 2014.
 Cemetery in the snow.

And in the early hours of 31 January 2015, the first snow fell, and while there was not a lot of it, there was enough for me to grab my camera and head out. With hindsight the pics from the 31st were mediocre compared to what I got on Tuesday. Visit the Cemetery in the Snow link to see this place in the snow. 
 

 

© DRW 01/07/2014-2018. Updated 03/02/2015, images recreated 20/04/2016

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:00

The Romsey Signal Box Project

On my way to work every day I pass the Romsey Signal Box Project, and naturally my curiosity was piqued and while I never made a conscious decision to go there, the idea did fester in the back of my head for quite some time. On my visit to Romsey on 16 November I walked past the entrance and decided that it was now or never! 
 
I originally trained as a Telecommunications Technician with the South African Railways back in the early 1980’s and part of our jobs was to maintain the trackside and cabin equipment that involved telecommunications, and to a lesser extent small scale electronics used in the cabins. I was not involved in the signalling side, but as a bit of a train buff I do have an interest in things like this.
 
I cannot really tell the history and workings of the equipment as their website explains it better than I can. Suffice to say I did not expect to see too much but was fortunate that one of the members was there on that day and he very kindly showed me around.
 
 
There is a section of track with a point as well as associated equipment on the site, as well as the frame and all its attendant linkages and rods. Unfortunately a real train is not present but the present railway line runs on the embankment behind the project. 
 
 
 
The operation of the equipment is all done manually, and a controller can sit in the level below and simulate trains in the section while the signalman above can operate the appropriate signals. 
 
 
What interested me was the tag block above. I wired many of those while I was a technician, and could probably still wire one up today. Telecommunication is really lots of short lengths of cross connect wire joined by long lengths of cable.  I also spotted a telephone set which was familiar to me, and it was one of the items we had to wire up for trade test. I seem to recall it being called a “Plan 11” and was basically a master incoming phone with extensions. 
  
I was distracted there for a moment, but all around me was this equipment from the past, and a lot would probably be familiar to South African signalmen as it would be to British ones. And, a few model railroaders would probably understand the inner workings just as well.
 
I even spotted a set of aerial lines that made me recall the hours spent “up the pole”, it was one thing we all dreaded during trade test. I was fortunate enough to not get it when I wrote. 
The one end of the line

The one end of the line

The other end of the line

The other end of the line

The low brown building also revealed an extensive array of railway memorabilia that was amazing to see, a lot of this equipment is long gone from memory, but lives on in heritage rail and museums. 
 
 
 
I must admit I know nothing about signalling, and semaphores were long gone by the time I was an appy, but in some of the more rural areas of South Africa they survived for many years. Unfortunately a site like this would be a prime target for the scrap metal thieves that exist back home. 
  
This line extends from Salisbury, through Romsey, Southampton, Southampton Parkway, Eastleigh, Chandlers Ford and back to Romsey with all stations inbetween. It is not electrified, so everything here is diesel powered. The station does not see to much traffic either, but I believe at one point this was a very busy goods line. Of course a lot of traffic was on this line during war time, and a plaque on the station testifies to that. 
 
The project is a great idea, and has so much potential to be something amazing. Sadly it will be closed for 18 months while development is being done on the area around it, and the last public open day will be the 1st of December. I guess I was very lucky to get to look around here before it closes, and I hope by the time it re-opens it will be an even better experience for the participants and volunteers. 
 
  
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 14/04/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:49

Visiting Romsey

I pass Romsey every morning on my way to work, and while it is not the sort of place that seems like having anything interesting in it, it does have a war memorial, abbey and cemetery, and all three of those fall into my field of interest. I headed out there on Saturday 16 Nov, my goal was the cemetery; and, weather permitting, the war memorial. Everything else was a bonus.
 
The train that serves this line runs from Romsey, through Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, and then Southampton, Romsey and Salisbury, with all stations inbetween. That is the one I use in in the mornings. In the evenings I catch a First Great Western train that transits between Portsmouth and Cardiff, passing through Southampton, Romsey, and Salisbury. 
First Great Western service to Cardiff

First Great Western service to Cardiff

 
The weather was nice and clear, and I would regret taking my NATO Parka with, although that was not the case later in the morning. The Cemetery is 1.4 miles away from the station, and it was a quick walk to get there. On the way I spotted the abbey in the distance and hoped to have a look at it later on. 
  
I also was able to pop into the Romsey Signal Box Project and I will do a separate post about that later on. I first spotted it from the train when I first started to work in Salisbury, and my curiosity has been piqued since then. 
  
Botley Road Cemetery was the burial place for Romsey from 1856 till 1983, and there are 18 War Graves in the cemetery of which I could only find 17. There are also two chapels and a caretakers lodge in the cemetery, and they are all in a very good condition.
Church of England Chapel

Church of England Chapel

Overall the cemetery is in a very good condition, although the legibility of some of the headstones is poor. Neither is it a very big cemetery, running at 6 acres. The older graves clustered around the two chapels. 

Non Conformist Chapel

Non Conformist Chapel

 
It has been well maintained, although parts of it are allowed a degree of “wildness” to encourage small “critters” to make it their home too. I was really impressed, although it is not one of those cemeteries that leaves an indelible mark on you. 
 
 
By the time I had found the graves the weather had started to cloud, and I decided to head off to the war memorial which wasn’t too far away. My route took me back under the railway lines towards the abbey. 
 
 
The town centre was crowded, too many cars, too narrow pavements, and too many people walking side by side along them. Not to mention too many large children in prams and old timers dicing each other on mobility scooters. Oh, and unconscious individuals on cellphones. At one point I think I crossed the same street 5 times to avoid the crowds on the pavements. 
  
 
 
The abbey was heard and seen above the clamour. The bells tolling constantly, and I hoped that there wasn’t some sort of service on the go. 
  
Eventually I reached Romsey Abbey, and a mighty space it is. 
 
 
It is a squat building, and not an attractive place at all. Originating in the 10th century it seemed to glower at its surroundings. The abbey was actually a nunnery, and it too suffered under Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. On this particular day there was a wedding taking place, which explained the tolling of the bells. The area where I took the pic above may have been the churchyard, as there are quite a few headstones laid out as paving. 
 
Leaving the wedding to its service, I headed across to War Memorial Park where the memorial was situated. 
  
It too had seen a Remembrance Day service, and was festooned with Poppy Wreaths. A bit further away was a plinthed Japanese 150mm field gun, which had been presented to the town by Lord Louis Mountbatten in recognition of the townspeople’s service during the second world war. 
 
And then it was time to go. Interestingly enough the River Test runs around this park, so I decided to follow it for awhile and see where I would come out. Southampton Harbour is situated at the mouth of the Test, and along with the Itchen it becomes Southampton Water and from there the Solent.
 
    
This particular bridge was the site of a skirmish in 1643 during the civil War. It is doubtful that the river really cared too much about that though. It still had a fair distance to meander before arriving at the harbour. At Totton there is a another bridge that I wanted to have a look at which is the point where the Test starts to widen and become the harbour. 
 
The station wasn’t too far away and for once I would be in time for my train. A blue plaque interested me, and it tied into this area and the world wars. 
  
It is hard to imagine the troop trains leaving from here, en route to Southampton, and from there to the continent, but then that was a different era, and things have changed considerably. But I could not help think that just maybe the signal box I had seen this morning had witnessed these events so many years before.
 
And while I waited, the Southwest trains DMU that I usually caught in the mornings paused on the opposite platform, and tomorrow I would be on it once again, travelling this route for the next week before my relocation to Salisbury. 
 
© DRW 2013-2018. Images replaced 14/04/2015
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:50

Random Churchyards: St Johns Lockerley

On my way to work each morning by train I pass a church in Lockerley. It is one of those churches that stands out in the countryside and as it had a graveyard I was definitely interested. I had tried many times to get a photograph of it from the train but most of my attempts were lousy. I especially wanted one of those misty shots so beloved of horror movie makers, and this is probably the best I was able to do. 
  
The church is almost halfway between the stations of Mottisfont & Dunbridge and Dean on the way to Salisbury, although it is a shorter distance from the former. The station is a typical country station, with a  level crossing and very few people waiting to catch trains. 
Mottisfont & Dunbridge Station.

Mottisfont & Dunbridge Station.

With hindsite I should have taken more pics around the station, but I was more intent on getting to my destination.   I had quite a dodgy walk along a country lane with no pavements, in constant fear of being run over by a passing vehicle. I do not always know why I do these things, but I will keep at it anyway. I also had the weather to contend with, and as I left Southampton it started to drizzle, but had cleared by the time I reached Romsey. 
 
 
20 Minutes later my goal was in sight, and it was hard to believe this was the same church that I passed every morning and afternoon. It was even better up close and personal.
 
 
 
  
The foundation was laid in 1889, and this church replaces an older Saxon era church that occupied an area where the churchyard is today. The slightly sunken area is where that older church once stood. 
 
  
I was told that the local “Lord of the Manor” wanted a more picturesque church to look out on, and the present church is the result. The church has an extensive graveyard, and surprisingly enough there were four CWGC headstones, which made this trip worth while making. 
 
  
The churchyard is still in use too, and an additional area has been consecrated next to the church to cater for new burials. Unfortunately there is no crypt to explore (much to my dismay). Most of the headstones in the older area of the churchyard are illegible. Time, moss and materials have rendered many of them beyond recovery, but there is a map of the layout of the churchyard, so it is possible that somewhere a list of names exists too.
 
 
There is one tantalising item in the churchyard which may have been the altar of the former Saxon church, and there is an engraving of sorts, but most of it is missing. 
 
 
I was fortunate that during my visit the church was open, and I did manage to have a look around inside. It is not an elaborate building inside,  but it is a good solid building, with not too much ornamentation, and it does have a good feel about it.
 
 
  
I was hoping that there was at least a war memorial inside the church but thus time around I was disappointed, the closest was a small framed list of names.  
 
 
The spire houses a working set of bells, and I heard them chime on my way back to the station, although I was not able to access the belfry. 
 
 
The carving behind the altar was magnificent. almost out of character with the rest of the church, and it was surmounted by a beautiful stained glass window.  I also found a modest brass plaque, attesting to the origins of the church. 
 
  
And with that it was time for me to go home. I had a train to catch at 11H14, and it was already 10H55, would I make it? 
 
  
I got to the station as the train pulled into the platform, and was fortunate enough that I did make it in time, but no photographs of the station were possible. See, I should have taken them when I arrived. 
 
It was a great mornings outing, and I was very impressed with what I saw this morning. I really enjoy finds like this, they make it all worth while. 
 
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 14/04/2016
Updated: 05/02/2018 — 20:35

Random Churchyards: St Michaels and All Angels, Lyndhurst.

I really love a good churchyard, they are real time capsules of a bygone age. I have been fortunate enough to have visited quite a few and each new discovery is a thrill. This particular churchyard is famous for being the burial place of Alice Liddell, the real life Alice from Alice in Wonderland

Like so many of these really magnificent churches, it is almost impossible to photograph completely, and this particular one is no exception. It was built between 1858 and 1870, and is situated in the village of Lyndhurst, in the New Forest, Hampshire. We just happened to be passing on our way elsewhere when we stopped here for a quick look, and the church and its churchyard did not disappoint.  
 
As usual there is a mix of really old illegible headstones in the usual shapes and stages of decay. What always amazes me is how often I see what looks like an old headstone only to find it is less than 30 years old! 
  
The moss and lichen always add a touch of colour, but often leave the headstones illegible. In some cases it grows only in the inscriptions, and I have often wondered what makes it grow on some stones but not on others. 
 
 
Many of the churchyards have lost their headstones, often arranging them along the boundary wall and creating a park with mowed grass and flowerbeds on the former churchyard. 
 
I can’t quite decide whether it is right or wrong because I can see the potential dangers of toppling headstones, and the difficulty of maintaining the grass and weeds when there are so many old headstones around. 
 
 
The grave of Alice Liddell is nothing spectacular, and unless you were specifically looking for it you would probably just think it was a flowerbed. 
 
The inscription reads: 
The grave of 
Mrs Reginald Hargreaves
The “Alice” in Lewis Carroll’s
“Alice in Wonderland”
The inside of the church is really beautiful, and I did try take a few images, but the same issue applies. These buildings are just the wrong shape and size to photograph well without pro equipment. 
 
I did not find the atmosphere here to be too “heavy”. If anything it had an airy feel about it, and was really very pretty inside. 
 
 
There are a number of military memorials inside the church, and they probably relate to prominent families that were members of the parish. 
 
The church is situated on a mound overlooking the village, and the village has probably grown considerably since then. The one issue many of these older churches have is retaining a congregation, and keeping up with technology; and of course raising funds for the church roof fund! I suspect this old beauty has the same problems, and there is evidence inside of trying to attract the youngsters to the church so that they will become the future congregation.
 
And of course one day become part of the history of the congregation. Although I doubt whether burials still happen in this churchyard, but I do see many churches have started utilising these spaces as gardens of remembrance for those who wish to be remembered here.
 
And then it was time to leave, and I must admit I really liked this churchyard a lot because it was well maintained, and had some really beautiful headstones. And, the church was wonderful, with lots of atmosphere and some really beautiful ornamentation. 
 
I hope one day to return here, and take more photographs, but till then I leave this blog post to remind me of this parish. 
  
© DRW 2013-2018. Images replaced 11/04/2016
 
Updated: 05/02/2018 — 07:59

The Watercress Line (04) Alton

Our final stop on the journey was at Alton where the Watercress Line originates and terminates. The station is shared between Network Rail and Heritage Rail and it is an interesting contrast.

We arrived as the DEMU left the station, so I did not get any decent pics of her, however. it was the same one that we saw at Medstead and Four Marks

 

While we waited for the next inbound train we took more pics of random things. The station buildings on platform three are in the 1950’s style and are very interesting in their own right.

Walking down the platform I discovered a magnificent Ransome and Rapier 45 Ton steam crane, and it was real beaut. It sat on a side line and  superficially was in a good condition. Whether it still worked or not was another story though, given how it is steam powered and the boiler would need regular inspections.

The crane admired, we headed down to await the arrival of the train. It was headed by a diesel, with a steam loco at the back. These were the same class 50 diesel and Schools Class loco that we had seen the day before at Ropley.  The moment the train had stopped the steam engine was mobbed by eager photographers, rubberneckers and gawkers. But she shrugged them off and disconnected from the train and moved forward to take on water, before reversing back onto the end of the train.

 
Then everybody started to board and soon the train started to move, steam engine doing what it does best.

Then they were past us, heading towards the next station. The rear of the train connected to the diesel. My video of this train is on my YouTube Channel.

It had been another fascinating morning of heritage rail, and I am glad I was able to see this, although travelling on it may be out of my reach at this moment in time. However, it is a glimpse into a period that is past, and one which the many children who travelled on this train did not experience. I experienced rail travel in a different country, so it is all new to me too.

 
 

It is very evident that the Watercress Line is a very professional operation that is manned by volunteers. I marvel at how they have managed to create this world from the past, and can imagine how much dedication it took to get to this point. I hope that one day I will be able to ride this train too, although sticking my head out of the window isn’t possible. There are 4 sections to this blog post, this being the last. Use the arrow to return to the first

 
 © DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 10/04/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:41
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