March 24, 2017

Swarkestone Bridge

This week is the first time of hosting Five on Friday by Tricky at FAST blog. So to welcome him and start things well, here's five views of a rather impressive structure close to where I live. Sorry about the photos. It's not the easier thing to capture on film. (Don't forget to visit Tricky's blog to see what other people have written.)

The Grade I listed Swarkestone Bridge and Causeway, at almost a mile in length, is the longest stone bridge in England. At one time a bridge chapel and toll house stood on the causeway but there is little sign of them now. The structure crosses the River Trent flood plain between Swarkestone and Stanton-by-Bridge and is still a significant crossing for travellers passing from Derby to Melbourne.

It carries a bus route and it's quite creative driving when you meet one coming the other way. As you can see, it's narrow, and the photo shows one of the wider bits!

Built in the 13th century, the causeway is reputed to be the work of two local sisters whose lovers drowned while trying to cross the flood plain in high water. The horrified sisters saw the men swept away by the river and vowed that no-one else would suffer the same fate.  They spent the rest of their lives building and maintaining the causeway and bridge and so were penniless when they died.

March 17, 2017

More Place Names

Roman remains in Wall.

Yes, I know I've done place names before but I've had a particularly hectic week and I'm pushed for time. I wanted to take part in Five on Friday this week because it's the last one to be hosted by Amy at Love Made My home. I wanted to say thank you to her for looking after us for so long and being such a welcoming host. It's been fun, and I've learned lots from my fellow Fivers.

But please bear with me if this is short and sweet.  I've chosen five places that have meant something to me for some reason, either that I've lived close to them, or passed through them regularly.

Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire. First recorded in 780 as Yrtlingaburg, which means "fortified manor belonging to the ploughmen" in Old English. The Domesday Book* (1086) called it Erdinburne, These days the locals call it Artleknock. I have no idea why!

Margate, Kent. First recorded as Meregate in 1254. From the Old English meaning "gap leading to the sea".  Now known as the original seaside. (Though Northern coastal folk would disagree!)

Meriden, West Midlands. First mentioned in 1230. It means "pleasant valley" or "where merrymaking takes place" in Old English. In spite of what some people believe, its nothing to do with 'meridian' and absolutely not related to the fact that the village is as close to the centre of England as makes no difference.

Wall, Staffordshire. Originally listed as Wal in manorial documents from 1166. Want to guess what's there?  Correct - it's a wall. In fact it's several walls dating from the Roman era when Letocetum was an important place on Watling Street.  The old Roman road still runs through the village but its 'modern' replacement (The A5, brought 'up to date' by Thomas Telford in the 1820s.) runs past the village now.

Wetwang, North Yorkshire
Mentioned in the Domesday Book* (1086).  From the Old Scandinavian for "a place for trial of legal actions". We go past this place regularly on the way to see Mr Anorak's mother.  We always laugh at the sound of it.

*The Domesday Book (pronounced 'doomsday') was a record of the settlements in England after its defeat by the Normans in 1066.  One of the first things William ordered was an extensive survey of what he now owned, and it was published 20 years later.  It's a valuable historic source for researchers.

Much of the information in this post has been gathered from the Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names, (1998 Past Times edition)

March 10, 2017

Scarborough Five

For Five on Friday (which is still hosted by Amy at Love Made My Home, for the next couple of weeks) we have five historic-ish things to be found in and around Scarborough, North Yorkshire. It was,of course, The Anorak's home town and is still regularly visited by us when we hear the call of the sea.

Captain Sydney Smith Bridge
Named after a former Deputy Harbour Master who was also editor of Olsen's Fishermen's Nautical Almanac. He was decorated for his daring during WWII. The bridge, which lifts to allow craft in and out of the harbour, was erected in 2000.

The Vickers gun
In 1914 Scarborough was the target of a German attack from the sea when a huge number of shells fell on the town causing extensive damage. While this gun dates from the time it was not involved in defending Scarborough then. It was sited on the cargo ship SS Hornsund, which was sunk by torpedo in 1917 about two miles off shore. The gun was recovered by the local sub aqua club in 1982 and now stands close to the lighthouse.

The horse trough
This granite trough has stood on the harbour road since 1908, erected in memory of Godfrey Walker of Conisborough Priory, Yorkshire. One side was a drinking fountain for humans and the other side was a trough for horses. These days it's a flower pot.

The Golden Ball Inn, Quay Street
According to the Scarborough Maritime History Centre website: "The Golden Ball, in Quay Street, was one of the better known inns. Of great age, it was noted for the "prime old ales" produced on the 30th September every year, St Jerome's Day, and the occasion for the election of new bailiffs at the nearby town hall. A brewery adjoined the house, where in 1821, Mark Coates fell into the mash tub."

More recently I'm prepared to admit it was the site of The History Anorak's early forays into pub attendance. I'm even prepared to admit that it might have been the site of some underage drinking!  When my mother found out she was appalled - not because I'd been breaking the law by imbibing alcohol at 16, but by the fact that the pub was by the harbour and I must have been in close proximity to riff-raff mariners!

Oliver's Mount
Here's a close up view of the monument that stands on top of Oliver's Mount overlooking the town. You can see it easily from a lot of the area. It's the town's war memorial and I have many memories of my father laying a wreath on behalf of St John Ambulance back in the day. He looked smart in his black and white uniform and always brought much dignity to the act of remembrance. I can still picture him.

March 03, 2017


All Saints' Church, Beeby in Leicestershire is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. Beeby is mentioned in the Domesday Book, the invading Normans' way of recording what they gained at the Battle of Hastings.

At the time there was no church. The earliest parts of the current building date from the 13th century. The upper level and the tower are from the 15th century.

Built in the local orange ironstone, Beeby stands out from its neighbouring parishes because of its unique stumpy spire that looks as if it was sawn off by some huge hand.

There's a beautifully carved 15th century wooden screen surrounding a chapel in the south aisle.

There are also remaining wooden box pews - a rare survival because the Victorians were fond of ripping them out. These are thought to date from the 18th and early 19th century.

But some of the most interesting points date from the era of rector George Calvert who was incumbent from 1818 to 1865. He decided to brighten up the 14th century nave arches by adding carved corbels in various designs, including a serpent, a skull and crossbones, and an angel.

The east window is by Victorian artist Thomas Willement and was commissioned in 1843. The main figures in the window are Noah, Daniel, Job, Abraham, Moses and Elijah, with the
symbols of the Evangelists.

This has been a Five on Friday post. Please visit Amy at Love Made My Home to see more.

February 24, 2017

Trent Washlands

Statue of St Modwen
by John Fortnum

The earliest written record of the town of Burton on Trent dates from the 7th century, when St Modwen built a chapel dedicated to Saint Andrew on an island in the river. She constructed a well nearby and the water was reputed to cure all ills.

Wikipedia tells us that Modwen, or Modwenna was an Irish noblewoman who became a nun. After setting up the chapel in Burton she and two fellow nuns made a pilgrimage to Rome. On their return they built a church at nearby Stapenhill dedicated to St Peter and St Paul.

View across the Washlands
In 874 the town was invaded by Vikings, who are believed to have destroyed St Modwen's chapel. Only a cherry orchard and yew trees mark the site today.

Sculpture representing the prow
of a viking ship
The Saxon earl Wulfric Sport later built an abbey on the banks of the river and included a shrine to St Modwen. It was the monks of that abbey who sank more wells in the surrounding marsh and began brewing beer - the trade for which the town is now best known.

Much of the town's early history, including the site of St Modwen's chapel, is now covered by a public park called the Washlands.  And dotted around the area are sculptures representing key figures and products.

Being a river town (they don't call it "on Trent" for nothing) Burton needs bridges, and the first one was built by the abbey monks, but their structure was replaced in 1864 by one that was strong enough to cope with the industrial traffic the town attracted by then. The Washlands are also crossed by a causeway that enables people from the Stapenhill area to walk to the centre of town, even when the river is in flood.

Like Marmite, for example. Apologies to any of my overseas readers who have never tasted the yeasty spread. It's a by-product of the brewing industry and, as the adverts say, you either love it or hate it. Personally I'm a fan. Anyone who knows it will instantly recognise the Marmite jar sculpture standing close to the washlands.

This has been a Five on Friday post, joining in with Amy at Love Made My Home. 

February 16, 2017

I fully admit that I have nothing prepared for this week's Five on Friday. It's been a tough week.

Here's five photos of post boxes.  I can't tell you much about them, other than where they are.
This one's in Bath.We stayed there for a long weekend a couple of years ago and walked past this between town and our hotel. It's Victorian, as you can see from the impression on the front. Pretty, huh?
We found this one a few weeks ago in Shrewsbury. It's right next to the Abbey (of Brother Cadfael fame) Also Victorian, but not the same design as the last pic. Taller and narrower. Someone on my Flickr feed has trumpeted this as being 'original' and warned against replica and fake 'Victorian' boxes in other parts of the country.  I'd hate to think the Bath one isn't real.
Oddly, this is just round the corner from the Shrewsbury Abbey model. I admit I've never seen a wall-mounted Victorian box before, so it might be what my Flickr pal was warning me about.
Another wall mounted version - this time a lot younger. It's in Castle Donington in Leicestershire. I love the way it's been given its own 'frame', presumably to give it enough space at the back to hold posted letters. Look at the size of its 'mouth'. Letters have clearly got much bigger since Victorian times.

I've saved the best till last. Ignore the ugly brickwork and very poor standard pointing. This one can be found in the old Cadbury village of Bournville just outside Birmingham. George Cadbury cared deeply about his work force and built a special village for them surrounding the factory. It offered much higher standards of living than were available in the city. Green open spaces, large houses, gardens, and relatively clean air.  The architecture was also tasteful, as shown by this wonderful post box. As far as I know it's unique.

Sorry this post's pathetic. I promise to try harder next week!

February 10, 2017

Snicket - or is it?

Compass Passage, Shrewsbury
Back when I was a young Anorak there was a short cut from our street to the centre of my village. It was a paved gap between two sets of houses and we always referred to it as "the snicket". I grew up in North Yorkshire, close to the east coast, but the word was my mother's, and she came from West Yorkshire; altogether closer to the spine of England. According to my recent research, snicket is actually a north western word, originating from the Lake District.

My part of the world is apparently more likely to call such an alleyway a ginnel*, although it's not a word I heard until I moved to South Yorkshire. A friend who now lives in Sheffield (South Yorkshire) but is originally from Derbyshire, calls them jennels, which is clearly from the same source.
* Pronounced like give, not like gin.

I currently live in the East Midlands where, I'm reliably informed by the OED, that the term for a passage between houses is a twitchel. Its earliest recorded use was from the 15th century in Nottingham, and it's believed to be a variant of the Old English word twichen, which was used in Anglo Saxon charters for a place where two roads met.

Back up north in Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne they call them chares, and evidence comes from a 13th century map of Gateshead that included the street Potter's Chare. However, if you head south to Oxfordshire you'll find the obviously related words tchure, chure and chewer. They're all probably corruptions of the Old English cierr, meaning turning.

And that brings us to Scotland, where they spoke a completely different language for many years and still sound as if they do in some parts of the country. Way up there alleyways are called wynds - pronounced like whined - and the origin might be similar to that of the word wind (as in to twist). Incidentally, narrow boat people talk about 'winding' when they turn a boat around. It's pronounced like the North Wind (doth blow, and we shall have snow, etc) and it takes a bit of getting used to when you first hear it regularly. But that's yet another glory of the English language!

Research from:

This has been a Five on Friday post.