Chippenham churnings.

This semi fine morning I had to make a trip to Chippenham for a job interview. It was a grey sort of day, in fact its been a grey day since the beginning of the week, so not much has changed. The town is situated on the London Paddington-Bristol Temple Meads line with First Great Western, and it was quite an expensive way to waste money on train fare.

 

Traveling through Didcot Parkway and Swindon, Chippenham was the next stop. It is really quite a sleepy sort of station though, and I will come back to it. 

However, the area I needed to be in was in the opposite side of the station to where the city centre was. I was running about an hour early so headed off towards a church spire that I could see from the station. This was however not the church that I had seen from Google Earth.  
 
Called St Pauls, it is a wonderful old building with an enormous spire that sticks out above everything else. It also had a wonderful churchyard with 9 CWGC graves in it.

 

The graves had been photographed before so I am not too worried about missing some of them. Unfortunately there was some sort of group on the go when I was there so I could only grab one quick image before I headed off to the taxi rank and my interview.

 

After my interview, (which went well, but which did not land me the job) I headed back towards the station, although aiming for an area that looked interesting beyond the station. Fortunately I did not have to worry too much about train times as it was still reasonably early.

 
As is to be expected, the closer you get to town, the older the houses become, and from what I can see Chippenham is more residential than commercial. The railway line runs on one side of the town, and it runs over one of those beautiful bricked arches that I have seen in a number of places.  I always marvel at the interior brickwork of the arch, there are so many of these structures all over Britain, and they are all reasonably old, so they were built to last. I did however miss the Brunel Railway Viaduct, but did not know it was there until now.

 

I had more or less arrived where I wanted to be, but discovered that it was not where I should be to see what I wanted to see, so headed off towards the town centre which was 10 minutes away. This is where you get to see the age of the town, and some of the architecture that is still standing today.  The town centre sits more or less on a hill, and the river Avon meanders through the town, I suspect this is the same Avon that I encountered in Bath, Bristol and Salisbury. 

  

The small roofed structure is the Buttercross, and it has somewhat of a chequered history, the original having been erected in 1570. Once past the Buttercross I was almost at the top of the town and my destination was in sight. 

 
 
 
The spire probably gives it away, and the structure on the traffic island is the Chippenham War Memorial.  The church is known as St Andrews, and it is one of those old churches that seem to originate many centuries ago and that have undergone so much restoration and modernisation that it is difficult to know what part is original. Unfortunately, I could not get inside, but the graveyard is reasonably intact and has the largest collection of chest tombs I have ever seen in one spot.
 
It does however stand in an awkward space, so getting a decent image of it is very difficult. However, the buildings behind the church are really beautiful, and I just wish I had better photography weather. 

 
And then it was time to start heading back to the station.
 

 

 
Crossing over the river once more. I more or less knew where the station was now so headed in that general direction.  There were still many pretty buildings to see, but I was starting to tire and really wanted to be on my way home.
 
Is that part of the Brunel Viaduct? it is possible, but I cannot be too sure.

 

The local Class 153 pulled into the station shortly after I arrived, and that was pretty much the sum total of trains that I saw at the station outside of the FGW fast inter-cities that I had come here on.  These towns must have really been something to see in the heady days of steam, although they would have probably been much dirtier and full of smog.

  
Alas, all we have now are dirty diesels.
 
Random pics.
Don’t blink now, but that was Chippenham. It was an interesting diversion, but rationally it was a waste of money. A whole days wages is not to be sneezed at, although at the end of the day I need to go for interviews, and hopefully one of them may pay off. Unfortunately in the case of this one I never heard from the agency again, so the odds are I never got the job. It is doubtful that I will come through here again, which is a pity because I suspect there is much more to see here than meets the eye. 
 
© DRW 2015-2018. Created 13/02/2015 images merged 26/04/2016

Radnor Street Cemetery Swindon

Following my visit to the Museum of the Great Western Railway I headed for the Radnor Street Cemetery in Swindon. Theoretically it was not too far away, and I had a scribbled map with some of the streets marked on it. 
On my way I quickly stopped at St Marks Swindon to have a look at the graveyard. The church is magnificent, and also a handy landmark if I ended up getting lost. The church was dedicated on 25 April 1845. 
  
The graveyard was quite large although there were not too many headstones, however, those that remained were really in an excellent condition, and some were really beautiful. 
 
Then it was time to open my map and get lost! I have not been using the gps function on my phone lately as it can be very hard to read because the screen displays everything but where I must go. Besides, the cemetery wasn’t too far away? I eventually found what I was after and went inside. There are 86 World War One casualties and 14 from the 2nd World War buried in the cemetery.
 
The cemetery did not endear itself to me immediately, it is built on a slope and very uneven in places, and the ground was very soggy. It was heading towards mid afternoon so the sun was getting lower and was behind and to the south of the graves I was after, so the light varies depending on where I was.  
And, as usual finding those familiar white headstones was reasonably easy, although I was behind the inscriptions so could not really check for private memorials. The first 25 graves completed I crossed to the opposite fence from where I was and bumped into a local who knew the cemetery reasonably well. He was under the impression that there was a Victoria Cross grave in the cemetery although the grave he thought it was proved to be that of two RAF pilots.
We walked and talked while I shot of pics, time was not on my side and I wanted to be on my way by 15H00. There was no way I would get all the graves I needed to, or even try out my new fangled selfie stick.
 The chapel and Cross of Sacrifice are situated in the middle of the cemetery and the chapel is a very pretty building. Unfortunately I did not get the images of the chapel that I wanted a bit later as a car came along and parked in front, ruining any potential images.
 

The cemetery dates to the 1880’s and a local architect, William Read, designed the lodge, mortuary and chapel.  The mortuary has been boarded up and the lodge has found another use.

The one grave my unofficial guide pointed out was that of Trooper Cecil Howard Goodman of the 1st Co. Imperial Yeomanry who died in South Africa during the Boer War. This iconic monument was erected by “his fellow clerks at the GWR staff in April 1901″. My contact in South Africa informed me that Trooper Goodman is buried in Winburg (JAC Coetzer Str) Cemetery, and that the cemetery had been vandalised since his last visit there.

It is strange to encounter these graves so far from South Africa, and to read that he died while fighting for his country. Unfortunately too many of the Imperial deaths in South Africa were from Enteric fever as opposed to enemy action. 

The museum that I had visited earlier in the day did have a number of commemorative plaques on display for works members who died during the wars. And it would be interesting to know how many of the graves in the cemetery are in some way connected to the Great Western Railway and its works in the town. The works was probably the biggest employer in the town, and I am sure most people were connected to it in some way or other, it is also probable that when the works shut down many people moved from the town for better employment prospects elsewhere.

I continued my photographing, pausing to look at the grave of Doreen, who had died in a cycling accident in August 1938, aged 14 years.  It is a very pretty memorial, and definitely not an off the shelf purchase. But, who had damaged it? was this an act of vandalism? or just something in the design of the memorial that it shed limbs? There is also the possibility that this was damage from bombing. It is really one of those questions that there is no real answer to.

All I know is that I very rarely find the missing bits of these memorials. Where do they go to? 

The time was marching, and I had planned to leave by 14H10 so as to get the train at 14H49. It was not too far to the station, but I was probably only half way done with the CWGC graves. I had to start getting a move on and stop admiring the view.

I was starting to enjoy this cemetery a lot, there are some really nice old headstones in it, and while the going is rough it is not totally impassable. Unfortunately the white CWGC headstones do not weather very well and most were in badly weathered state, although you could see that quite a number had been replaced not too long ago.

I was ready to leave, later processing would reveal that I had missed 28 graves, and I think that is reason enough to return one day.  I did decide to go via the lodge as I had missed that when I had arrived.

Like so many other cemetery lodges I have seen it is a very pretty building, and the cemetery is a great one, although I did find it tiring to walk around because of the slope and the uneven ground. But, if ever I come this way again I shall go find my missing graves, and visit with Doreen, and appreciate this little 11,5 acre plot with its 33000 burials just a bit more. 

And what of Swindon? I did not see too much of it considering that I was really there for the museum and had limited time available. But here are some general pics anyway. Bear in mind that the town really revolved around the loco works. 
 
 
 
 
 
© DRW 2015-2018. Created 17/01/2015, Images migrated and new images added 22/04/2016

The Steam Museum in Swindon (2)

Continuing where we left off, this part deals with some of the other odds and sods that I saw at the Steam Museum of the Great Western Railway. The reproduction station that was erected at the museum is really a glimpse of something that no longer exists. Small rural stations and branch lines met their ends with the Beeching Axe, and that is still being debated long after it happened. 

And when we lost the rural station we also lost the rural signal box. The station was an important part of the community, and when the trains stopped many communities stopped too. A similar thing happened in South Africa, although the axe was wielded by neglect and bad planning

I do suspect this guy may be waiting for a train that never comes.
I do suspect this guy may be waiting for a train that never comes.
The museum also emphasizes the role that the railway played in holiday travel, a trip to the seaside by train must have been something that all youngsters dreamt of, just like we did in South Africa when I was young. The GWR played its part too, and there were lots of travel posters that played on this urge to grab your picnic basket and dash off to Cornwall or Fishguard or similar.

 
The trains still run to Cornwall, but the romance of it has gone, and the modern snazzy airplane style coaches do not have that appeal, and neither do diesels for that matter.
Interior of current First Great Western carriage stock
Interior of current First Great Western carriage stock
The museum also shows the role that the railways had during the wars, and it is difficult to fully explain just how the war affected the railways, and how much they contributed to the war effort. Women were brought into the workforce in large numbers and they did the job with enthusiasm and pride, and their own lives were changed forever. 
Our lady with the tea trolley made a contribution that may be seen as something really small, but to those servicemen and women who were trying to get home, or who were en route to bases, knew that it was just as important as those who were out there getting killed in battle. 
Like many industries, the Swindon works were involved in munitions and equipment production, and  a large portion of their male workforce would have joined the forces. And, as I expected, there are Remembrance Plaques and Rolls of Honour in recognition of those who never came back.  I have posted images of the ones I photographed at allatsea 
Britain was a very different place back then, and the war really made it what it is today.  
 
Then it was time to head out, I had to find graves from that war in a nearby cemetery, and my missing hour had cut into the time I had available to do this. I had enjoyed this little march through the past, like so many of these museums this one is a gem, and I can’t help but wonder how many working and static steam locos I had seen in Britain compared to the masses of derelicts that I saw in South Africa. I was also fortunate enough to visit Mid Hants Railway in 2013 and the glimpse of the country station there was just as fascinating. I may return here one day, because I am still missing 28 graves from the cemetery, so maybe there will be a part three to this blogpost somewhere down the line.
Random pics. 
The goods yard
The goods yard
Scammel delivery van
Scammel delivery van
Railcar drivers position
Railcar drivers position
Fishguard? lets go!
Fishguard? lets go!
Working loco model
Working loco model
GWR Brakevan
GWR Brakevan
Carriage works
Carriage works
Track inspection vehicle
Track inspection vehicle

© DRW 2015-2018 Created 17/01/2015, images migrated 22/04/2016