Friday 28 February 2020

Churches (53) : St Alphege, Solihull

The church of St Alphege is the parish church of Solihull. The church mostly dates from the late 13th and early 14th centuries. It was built on the site of an earlier church of which little now remains. The spire however dates from 1757CE when it was built to replace an earlier spire which collapsed. The South aisle has also been rebuilt following a collapse in the mid-18th century.

The church has a cruciform plan with a chapel dedicated to St Alphege to the North of the chancel.

St Alphege was an Anglo-Saxon bishop who became Archibishop of Canterbury in 1006CE. He was killed by Viking raiders are refusing to allow himself to be ransomed, he was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to have a violent death. Only a few churches are dedicates to Alphege who became a saint in 1078CE, most of them in Kent.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

BGLR : Return of Falcon

The latest locomotive stock rotation brings Falcon back to the active fleet. It will replace Jam which will go for a well deserved rest (if the MPD extension goes ahead though the need for stock rotation will end). It is great to have the flagship locomotive of the fleet (and the locomotive that started everything seven years ago) back!

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Golden Age (23) : Murder in the Mill-Race

Murder in the Mill-Race by E.R.C. Lorac is an examination of crime and village secrets. When a doctor and his wife move to a small village in Devon they find a close-knit and friendly community but also one with some skeletons in the cupboard. Indeed a malign force is working behind the scenes. Sister Monica, whom everyone thinks is wonderful and yet is found dead...

The police in the form of DCI MacDonald and Sergeant Reeves lead the investigation, peeling away the layers of deceit in the village with the help of the doctor. Sister Monica had been ruling the orphanage and indeed the village too with an iron fist.

As well as a thoughtful and well plotted murder mystery this is also a commentary on the abuse that take place in institutions and how it can continue for years unpunished, all because everyone turns a blind eye. Well except one...

Sunday 23 February 2020

Reasons to visit Lapworth

The main reason for my visit to Lapworth yesterday was to see the church which i have missed on earlier visits. The church is quite a walk from the station but is well worth it as it is a splendid church with a number of novel features. Another reason to visit Lapworth was... well it is one of my favourite places and the station is probably my favourite station of all. You can see my other photos of Lapworth here.

Saturday 22 February 2020

Mud in Lapworth

Today I returned to one of my favourite places: Lapworth. The aim of my visit was to finally visit the parish church which i have missed out on before, mainly because it is a bit of a trek from the station. We'll cover the church and the rest of Lapworth in another post.

On the way back i walked along the Stratford Canal, a great stretch of waterway. However the towpath was rather muddy and took some care! You can see my canal photos here.

Friday 21 February 2020

Churches (52) : St Michael, Penkridge

The church of St Michael in Penkridge, Staffordshire may have been founded by the Saxon King Eadred in in the mid tenth century, it certainly was in existance by 1000CE and was mentioned in the Domesday Book. However the oldest parts of the current church are thought to date from the 13th century with the bases of piers dating from about 1225. A tower was added in the 14th century and raised in the 16th.

St Michael was an important collegiate church, served by a community of priests under the authority of a Dean, and a chapel royal (containing a place reserved for the monarch to use if he was passing). The church, which is made from local sandstone, was restored in 1881.

Thursday 20 February 2020

BGLR : More ballasting

The only thing to note this week is that some ballasting of the tram line has continued. Things were held up by a lack of glue but that has been rectified. We are trying clear glue instead of the white stuff (although it dries clear of course), it is slightly runnier than the white glue so hopefully should slip between the sleepers easier. Other operations are as normal, Falcon will return to the layout by the end of the month.

Wednesday 19 February 2020

The age of the punched card

Before the advent of modern technologies like magnetic tape and video screens the most usual way to load a program on a computer was via punched tape or card. Of course this was at a time when computers typically filled rooms and were something few people had access to. Indeed computer time was limited and expensive and computers could only do one thing at a time. They couldn't sit around waiting for a programmer to type in his latest masterpiece while there was more important work to do such as the company payroll!

Therefore programs were entered offline using a separate system called a card or key punch such as the IBM 029. The programmer would enter their program (COBOL shown below) or job control instructions and these would be printed to cards, where a line of code (up to eighty characters) fitted on a card. Holes in the card and the absense of them representing the binary data.

Once the program was written the programmer would have a stack of cards, which for a standard data processing program could consist of hundreds of cards! These were handed over at the computer centre to be loaded onto the computer when it was free by one of the operators. Often this would be during the night. The programmer would return the next day to receive the print out and see if his program had worked or not! Punched cards remained the most usual way to load programs well into the 1970s, indeed IBM were still selling card punch machines in the 1980s.

Punched cards had their drawbacks compared to later storage media of course though were durable and human readable. Dropping a stack of cards was not the end of the world, though a labourious task putting them back in order!

Tuesday 18 February 2020

Golden Age (22) : Scarweather

"Scarweather" by Anthony Rolls is an interesting mystery that spans the First World War. A young man goes missing in a lonely windswept coastal area. After the war his two friends gradually uncover the truth (some fifteen years later) and that a murder had been committed.

The story is told in the first person from the perspective of one of the friends. The other friend doing the bulk of the amateur detective work. The police hardly feature in the story indeed.

The characters are interesting, if rather eccentric in the case of the Professor and the plot a good one but everything takes an age to happen. The story covers some fifteen or so years and sometimes it feels like that reading it. Ultimately the interesting plot and slightly unusual story form wins the day, especially as it heavily involves archaeology.

Saturday 15 February 2020

Hamstead & Witton

Britain was hit by another storm this weekend, and as the last one to hit the country last weekend reduced the rail system to chaos i thought it prudent to stay local this time. So i just went to Hamstead and Witton/Aston. This was fine though as i was able to visit two new stations, walk the top of the Freeth bridge over the Tame Valley Canal (i have wanted to do this for some time) and see the church my mum was christened in. Although the conditions were not that good for photography i had a decent day. You can see my photos here.

Friday 14 February 2020

Churches (51) : St Peter, Ash

The church of St Peter in Ash, Surrey dates from the 12th century (around 1170CE). It was built on the site of an earlier wooden Saxon church. Though most of the current church dates from later centuries. The oldest parts are the South walls and door, the chancel dates from the 13th century. The tower from the 15th.

The church has a nave with a North aisle, to the East is the chancel with a chancel chapel and vestry to the North.

Thursday 13 February 2020

BGLR : Ballasting the tram line

There hasn't been much scenery work on the BGLR lately but a few days ago a start was made on ballasting the tram line. A lack of glue curtailed the ballasting but its a start! Otherwise operations wise everything has been smooth. One of the stored locomotives will return to the active fleet in the next week or so.

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Golden Age (21) : The Crime Club

The Crime Club by Frank Fro√ęst and George Dilnot is an enjoyable though uneven collection of crime short stories first published in 1915. Unlike a lot of other crime fiction of the early twentieth century, the stories contained within involve crimes handled by the professionals from the police and not enthusiastic amateurs.

The authors were indeed retired police officers and this gives the stories an air of authenticity with the often detailed descriptions of police procedure, though maybe the writing lacks a bit of flair.

The stories are a mixed bag, the crimes and the hunt for the criminals vary in keeping the reader's interest like any collection of short stories. The "Red Haired Pickpocket" stands out with it's hunt for a NY pickpocket who had come over to London to escape the heat, but reckoned without the Met's finest. The story is so good that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle "borrowed" the plot for one of his own tales a few years later!

Sunday 9 February 2020

Soar and Sileby

Leicestershire is a county i have come to love, and i headed back up there yesterday to Sileby which is inbetween Leicester and Loughborough. Sileby is a nice little market town, marred only by traffic (which is the usual problem with these places see also Stratford-upon-Avon and Moreton-in-Marsh). It has a nice church and a number of other interesting buildings. You can see my Sileby photos here.

I also visited Sileby Marina which is nearby and is on the River Soar Navigation. Those photos can be seen here.

Friday 7 February 2020

Churches (50) : St John the Baptist, Lea Marston

The church of St John the Baptist in the Warwickshire village of Lea Marston has been in existence since the mid-13th century at least. Parts of the nave date from this era. The nave was modified and lengthened in the following two centuries.

The tower to the North West is a more modern addition though being added in 1876 when the chancel was also built.

Although in an idyllic location nowadays for most of the twentieth century the church was in the imposing shadow of Hams Hall power station and it's various cooling towers.

Wednesday 5 February 2020

BGLR : More on the new wagon

As we mentioned last week the latest wagon to arrive on the BGLR is a dual gauge HOe/HOm wagon which needed it's wheels modified to fit the gauge of the layout. This works fine and the regauging was slightly off centre so the wagon can look a little odd (from above anyway). We may look to regauging the wheels later on, maybe if we can get a tool to help with that.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Staffordshire Places (5) : Burton-on-Trent

The market town of Burton-on-Trent has made it's fame and fortune from brewing, an industry that continues in the town to this day. A Roman camp may have been located near to the future site of the town. A monastery was probably set up in the area in the 660s, thanks to land granted by King Wulfhere of Mercia to Wilfrid the Bishop of York. The name Burton means a settlement at a fortified place and first appears in 800. However this did not stop Burton falling under viking control.

A Benedictine abbey was founded around 1000. The domesday book mentions Burton Abbey, the monastery becoming the richest and most important in Staffordshire.

Burton became a market town in 1200 with the granting of a charter by King John. Burton's location on the river Trent, and it's bridge over the river, made it a destination for many traders and travellers. Pilgrims also came to see claimed relics of St Modwen in the abbey church. It was the Trent which helped make Burton a brewing centre as it allowed for beer to be easily transported even for export. Burton was at it's height producing a quarter of all beer sold in the country, with over thirty breweries by 1880. However a hundred years later this had been reduced to just three.

Sunday 2 February 2020

Garden update

Yesterday i cut the lawn for the first time this year. Now of course, the first of February is usually rather early to do this but the mild Winter means the grass has been growing recently and was becoming pretty high. My trusty old hand mower was just about able to cut the grass down (with a lot of effort!) As rain was forecast for the night and for next weekend i thought i had better do it now or it might become too long. The rest of the garden is fine, especially the new shrub garden. However an animal seems to delight in digging holes in the plot.

Saturday 1 February 2020

Slipping into Shifnal

Today I visited Shifnal which is a nice little market town in Shropshire a little to the East of Telford. Shifnal ticked all the boxes for a good place to visit: a railway station with some interesting features (see the passenger tunnel below), a delightful church and a few other buildings of interest! You can see my photos below.