Monday 31 July 2017

Churches (5) : St Thomas, Ashton-in-Makerfield

St. Thomas' Church in Ashton-in-Makerfield (historically Lancashire now part of Greater Manchester) was built in the early 1890s from Runcorn red sandstone to replace an earlier 18th century church. The new church was consecrated in 1893.

Clerestory : high section of wall with windows to let in additional light and air.
St. Thomas' has a three bay nave with 2 aisles. The nave has a clerestory and there is a chancel with an organ chamber. The organ dates from 1826 and was one of a number of items and features moved from the older church to the new one. Stone from the old church was used too, the new stone being mixed with the old to emphasise the church was a rebuilding not a wholly new creation.

A vestry was added to the church in 1930. The church originally had a saddleback roof but this was replaced in the 1960s.

Sunday 30 July 2017


I visited Gloucester yesterday, a short-ish reconnaissance preparing for proper visits at a later stage -  but my mind has already blown by how good Gloucester Docks is! The docks are where the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal begins offering a safer and alternative route to the Severn. There is so much to see including a lightship which i always enjoy.

I will definitely be returning here - i suspect many times! I also stopped off at Cheltenham Spa on the way - i have been here once before but it was a long time ago when i was just out of uni. Again i shall return one day soon.

You can see my Gloucester Docks photos here. Photos from Cheltenham Spa & Gloucester railway stations are here.

Thursday 27 July 2017

Blake Street

Blake Street is the furthest North you can go on the Cross-City Line and remain in the Network WM area.

Monday 24 July 2017

Castles (2) : Berkhamsted

Berkhamsted castle dates from the 11th century and was a Norman motte and bailey castle built to help strengthen the grip of William the Conqueror on his new lands. The castle continued to be developed and expanded into the 14th century but in the 15th it fell into decline and later ruin.

The castle was nearly destroyed by the coming of the railways, the London-Birmingham line was originally intended to cut straight through the castle but was saved by becoming the first building to receive statutory protection in parliament in 1830.

Now the castle is a rather picturesque set of ruins located next to the railway station. No complete building survives though a number of walls fragments and the motte survive. You can see my photos taken at Berkhamsted castle here.

Sunday 23 July 2017

Using the lavender

The lavender plants in my herb garden grow really well, in fact i've had to cut them back a few times as they've threatened to take over that part of the garden. I haven't yet found a use for the lavender though unlike some of the other herbs in cooking. I've cut some of the flowers and put them in jars around the house, hopefully to spread some lovely scent for a few days at least.

Saturday 22 July 2017

Nostalgia rails around Birmingham

I stayed local for this week's rail adventure, intending to visit a few of Birmingham's many stations to collect content for my Calling At... stations blog. I did that and also enjoyed quite a nostalgia fest. First of all i headed up to Blake Street, a station i've never stopped at before but i remember it well from my youth as i was always told it was the furthest i could go on a local travel pass (not that i ever did!)

Then i headed up to Marston Green, my place of birth but oddly rnough i've never been to the railway station before until now. Small Heath was also visited and the final new station was Duddeston. This station i had seen the outside of many times as a kid as the 55 bus i went to town on with my Nan went past it. Finally i stood on the platform many years later. You can see my photos here, some of the less pretty and touristy sights of Birmingham maybe but no less a part of the city than the fancy city centre stuff!
Blake Street

Blake Street subway

Marston Green

Small Heath


Thursday 20 July 2017

Using a TTY Model 43 with Linux

Using a monitor isn't the only way to receive interactive output from a computer of course, a teleprinter is a kind of combination typewriter and printer that was used in the early days of computing (and still now occasionally) with commands typed in and output from the computer received and printed out. Here one is being used to communicate with a modern Linux computer.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Monday 17 July 2017

Milton Keynes Central

On my way back from Berkhamstead on Saturday i had to change trains at Milton Keynes Central so took a few photos of course. Milton Keynes being a new town created post-war is an interesting place despite its reputation. The home of the Open University of course and the last time i came to MK it was to attend a study day during my Masters. I found the lack of any tall landmarks in the city quite fascinating but also a bit awkward with my terrible sense of direction! You can see my photos here.

Saturday 15 July 2017


I visited Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire today. I've never been before but know i had to when i saw on Google Maps that the station was flanked by a castle on one side and a canal (the Grand Union) on the other! Berkhamsted did not disappoint, i enjoyed a very nice canal walk through the town as well as visiting the canal (which will be described in a later post). You can see my canal photos here and some photos at Berkhamsted station here. I must return to explore the canal in the other direction and maybe even visit the town too!

Thursday 13 July 2017

Shildon Pacer

Shildon in County Durham is one of the places at the very start of steam powered railways with the first passenger train running there as early as 1825! Nowadays though Pacers run to the station there, thats nearly 200 years of progress!

Tuesday 11 July 2017

10 fascinating facts about Erdington

Some years ago I thought about creating an Erdington history blog though in the end the project lost interest. I did however research some "fascinating facts" about the village in which i live so i thought i would post them here...

1. Chester Road, which runs through Erdington, probably predates the Romans and as you can thus imagine is one of the oldest roads in the area. Between Kenilworth and Brownhills the road follows the route of the ancient Welsh Road.

2. The Dwarf Holes were mysterious artificial caves, which were lost due to the construction of the Gravelly Hill Interchange. They may have dated from the Stone Age. They were mentioned in deeds dating from the 15th century in any case.

3. The brick factory on Holly Lane supplied the bricks for many of Erdington's houses up until WW2. Twenty million bricks were used to build Fort Dunlop.

4. Fort Dunlop was at one time the largest tyre factory in the British Commonwealth, it was built where in Erdington because of the ready supply of water from the River Tame and surrounding fields. My Great Aunt worked there in the early 20th century, amusingly there is a typo on the census record about that as she is described as a "ruber worker".

5. The murder of Mary Ashford in Erdington in 1817 and the resulting trial ended up with the British legal system being changed after the defendant Abraham Thornton challenged his accuser (Mary's younger brother) to a duel - trial by battle. The brother, as he was just a young lad, declined thus forcing the case to be dismissed. News of this case travelled far and wide, when Thornton tried to emigrate to the US he had a lot of trouble trying to get a ship in Liverpool as the fellow passengers did not want to share the same boat as a "murderer".

6. Number 2 Fern Road was the last house with a thatched roof in Birmingham though it's roof was replaced in 1944 due to the fire risk.

7. Six Ways is reputed to be the oldest traffic roundabout in the UK and certainly is one of the oldest.

8. In the 1900s Birmingham Council planned to build a gas works on the Glenthorne estate, luckily they built the Birches Green housing estate instead.

9. The Acorn Hotel was located on the High Street on the junction of Church Road up until the Second World War, a pub called The Acorn occupies part of the same site.

10. Two companies bid for the railway line from Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield, the winning company building what is now the Cross City Line. The alternative plan envisaged a rail route to Erdington that would have gone along the Tyburn Road and Wood End Lane with stations on Mason Road and Orphanage Road.

Arkinstall M & Baird P (1976), 'Erdington Past & Present', Birmingham Public Libraries
Baxter M & Drake P (1995), 'Erdington', Tempus
Baxter M & Drake P (2003), 'Erdington Vol 2', Tempus
Maxam A (2008), 'Vintage Images of Erdington Birmingham', Adlard

Monday 10 July 2017

Churches (4) : St James', Hill, Mere Green

St James' Church, Hill is in Mere Green north of Sutton Coldfield. The unusual name refers to the village called Hill once part of the Manor of Sutton Coldfield and this church was built as a daughter church of Sutton's Holy Trinity Church for this community in the early 1830s. The church had a simple nave and a small chancel. In the early 20th century, with the population of the area growing, the church was extensively rebuilt with a new larger chancel, vestries and an organ loft.

However the nave and tower were not rebuilt despite original plans to completely replace all of the original church. Today the church reflects this half-completed project with two very different looking halves, the original simpler stone dressed cement tower and nave and the rest being much more ornate ashlar.

Saturday 8 July 2017

Stratford - Parkway to Town

I visited Stratford today, not that out of the ordinary for me of course. I don't go as often as i used to (it used to be weekly when i was doing my dissertation - my project used Stratford's records office) though its still my second trip of the year. What was different today was that i alighted at Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway and not the older town station. I then walked along the canal from Bishopton to the town. You can see my canal walk photos here.

Thursday 6 July 2017

HST Departure

We'll miss the HST when its gone, though thats not likely to be for some time yet even if the phase out is due to begin soon. Here is a Cross Country set at Derby.

Monday 3 July 2017

Revisiting the first house

The first house i ever lived in was in Crosby on the Merseyside. However i was only a baby so have no memories of my time there except perhaps a hazy memory of roses, which were my Dad's pride around the garden there. At the weekend i headed up to see the house i only knew from photographs. I have seen how it looks now on Google Street View but on Saturday was the first time i had seen it for real since... oh about 1974. The house was still recognisable though the roses are gone.
Early 1970s


Sunday 2 July 2017

Merseyside adventures

I headed up to Liverpool yesterday for some more rail adventures, firstly though i headed up to Crosby to find the first house i lived in as a toddler, one i've seen in photos but have no memories of nowadays, i'll write about that in another post. I visited 6 new stations (for me) which will all be written about in my Calling At... blog one day. You can see my photos here.