Thursday 30 April 2020

BGLR : New Plymouth

The new loco, which will be called New Plymouth, has now been cleared for service after the usual array of tests including light and heavy trains. Despite being a small locomotive New Plymouth has plenty of grunt. Within the next couple of days it will replace Ruby as the active layout switcher, Ruby will return to the reserve loco pool.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Calculators (2) : Casio personal-mini

Although calculators came in many shapes and sizes (especially in the 1970s) the vast majority followed a common pattern: a screen at the top with the keys below. The Casio personal-mini however had the display to the left of the keys. To use terminology from photography or publishing most calculators are portrait format but the Casio was landscape.

The calculator first appeared in 1975 and was part of a line of Casio Mini calculators. The personal-mini was powered by a MicroPD178C CPU and had a six-digit vacuum flourescent display. Just the four basic arithmetic functions were provided though the keypad had an arrow key to allow shifting of the digits if the number was too large for the display allowing numbers of up to twelve digits to be worked with. The calculator was low-priced and very popular.

Saturday 25 April 2020

Gravelly Hill and Four Oaks

Over the last two days I have walked to a couple of parish churches, though in quite different surroundings. Yesterday I went to Gravelly Hill, which is often as grey and grubby as the motorway intersection named after the area (though better known as Spaghetti Junction of course). However the All Saints parish church looked lovely in the strong sunlight.

Today I took some photos of another All Saints but this one in Four Oaks. This is a very affluent area and also quite a different church. You can see all of the photos in my 2020 H1 miscellaneous folder on Flickr.

Friday 24 April 2020

Churches (61) : St Andrew, Chinnor

The parish church of St Andrew in Chinnor has been in existence since at least 1160CE. This is when the earliest records of the church were made, though the church may have been built on the site of earlier Saxon remains. Much of the current church, which is made from knapped flint and brick and stone, dates from the 13th century including the aisles and the tower. The tower was heightened in the following century and the nave roof and chancel rebuilt. The South porch was also added.

The church was restored in the early 1860s. The church is well known for it's monumental brasses and has one of the largest collections in the country plus one of the oldest wooden screens.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Calculators (1) : Commodore 776M

In this new series we take a look at some of the vintage calculators in our collection. It is easy to forget these days, with calculators being available from pound shops or even free, that in the 1970s calculators could often be relatively expensive. They were also the first computer many people ever owned, and came in a wide variety of shapes and sizes as this series will hopefully demonstrate...

From 1974 is the Commodore (or CBM - Commodore Business Machines) 776M. A typical calculator from the mid-decade when mass production and a reduced number of components meant that costs were kept low.

The 776M had a Commodore GRBP-67 integrated circuit and had the basic four arithmetric functions plus a percentage function and basic memory. The display was a seven segment red LED which gave a pleasing effect. The calculator was powered by a 9v battery.

Monday 20 April 2020

BGLR : New loco

A new loco has arrived on the BGLR layout. A Minitrains Plymouth switcher which will join the BGLR's small (and depleted) switcher fleet. After a week of tests the new locomotive will replace Ruby and perform shunting and light freight trips.

Saturday 18 April 2020

Local bits and pieces

With the lockdown continuing i can't travel elsewhere on rail adventures at the moment of course. However I am taking the opportunity to visit local sites of interest within walking distance of my house.

Today I walked to Nechells and back, taking some photos of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal (link is to a Flickr album collecting together various photos taken along the canal over the last few weeks) from various footbridges just off my road. I also took some photos of an old industrial locomotive that is now on display in a scrapyard! It is not quite a trip to the shires to see a medieval church but it isn't without interest!

Friday 17 April 2020

Churches (60) : St Mary, Wirksworth

The church of St Mary in Wirksworth, Derbyshire dates from about 1272CE however there are still some remains from Saxon times including carvings and a coffin lid which have been dated to the 7th century. The church also contains an Anglo-Saxon carving of a miner, thought to be one of the oldest representations of a miner in the world.

The church is cruciform with a tower and spire in the middle of the "cross". The chancel has aisles. The church was restored in 1870.

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Leicestershire Places (5) : Narborough

Narborough is a village to the South West of Leicester. Narborough has Saxon origins with the name of the village originally Nor Burh or North Fort. The village was too small to be included in the Domesday Book. The village indeed has remained small for most of it's existence, even as late as the 17th century the population of the village was around two hundred. It was only in late Victorian times the population exceeded a thousand.

The parish church, All Saints, dates from the 13th century at least though was probably built on the site of an earlier Saxon church. The village railway station is a stop on the line between Birmingham and Leicester.

Monday 13 April 2020

BGLR : Warming up

After a couple of weeks of near standstill the BGLR has finally seen some work this week. Ballasting between the coach stock siding and goods siding number 1 has begun. The tram shelter has also been moved to the end of the station platform (something else will be needed for the tram stop one day). Jam has also gone into the reserve pool. A new locomotive has also been ordered but we'll not mention any more until it is on the layout, hopefully soon!

Sunday 12 April 2020

The sad case of Mary Ashford and trial by battle

A sad event which occurred in Erdington in the early nineteenth century was the murder and rape of local girl Mary Ashford. The most notable aspect of the case was that it was the last time trial by battle (or combat) was used by a defendant in a British court.

Mary Ashford was a twenty year old woman who attended a dance at the Three Tuns public house (nowadays known as the Tyburn House) on the 26th of May 1817. She met Abraham Thornton from Castle Bromwich at the dance, later she was seen leaving the pub with him and seen in his company walking along a local lane. However this was the last time she was seen alive, the next time she was seen she was found dead in a water filled pit. Thornton was arrested, a search revealed he had blood on his underclothes.

Despite evidence and public opinion against him Thornton was acquitted in the resulting trial on the direction of the Judge. This caused local and national outrage, Mary's brother William Ashford received funding and encouragement to challenge the acquittal under an ancient law which allowed the relatives of the murder victim to appeal a case. The case returned to court and that is when Thornton claimed the right to trial by battle. Thornton said he would fight William Ashford to decide the case, if he defeated Ashford then he would be acquitted. The last time trial by battle had taken place was in the late 16th century however it remained on the statute books. Ashford declined to fight Thornton, the case was closed and he was allowed to go free.

Trial by battle (and private appeals) was finally abolished in 1819. Thornton's unpopularity with the public forced him to emigrate to the US. It is said he died in Baltimore in 1860.
Scene of the crime [1]

Tyburn House

Ashford Drive, not too far from where Mary Ashford was found

[1] Thornton's second trial ... : the whole proceedings of the extraordinary trial of Abraham Thornton, for the murder of Mary Ashford (1818)

Friday 10 April 2020

Churches (59) : St Ecgwin, Honeybourne

The church of St Ecgwin (an 8th century monk and Bishop of Worcester) in Honeybourne, Worcestershire was consecreted in 1295CE. The nave and chancel are probably from the original church but the South aisle is thought to have been demolished and the nave is now without aisles. The West tower and it's spire are a 14th century addition, the South porch added in the 15th century.

The church is made from lias rubble with an ashlar lining. The church was restored in the 19th century.

Thursday 9 April 2020

BGLR : Wagon repairs

It continues to be quiet on the BGLR though the newest wagon has gone into the repair shop. The wagon is dual gauge (HOm and HOe) and when it was converted to HOe the first time the job wasn't quite done correctly so the wagon wobbled a bit when running. The wheels have been regauged and it runs better now. Hopefully there can be more running this weekend.

Wednesday 8 April 2020

The Tomb of John de Nowers... or is it?

Inside Christ Church cathedral in Oxford is a fine effigy of a tall knight in full armour, however the effigy is not quite how it at first appears...

The figure bears the garb and crest of the Nowers family. Which member of the Nowers family the effigy represents however is in question. It is thought that it represents John de Nowers who died in 1386. It has also been suggested that it represents Sir George Nowers who was Lord of the Manor of Tackley and died in 1425. The armour the effigy wears would be wrong for the period however.

The tomb under the effigy may indicate the truth or at least point to it [1]. Analysis of the tomb has revealed what appears to be a greyhound and crests of the de Gaynsfords. The tomb was therefore probably originally for a member of the de Gaynsford family and  appropriated by the Nowers in a medieval example of re-cycling. A new effigy was installed on the tomb. The effigy itself shows evidence that parts of it have different origins, the feet being cut into a de Gaynsford greyhound. It is possible therefore that the feet are from the original effigy. The rest being removed and replaced by one representing Nowers.

[1] Mark Turnham Elvins, "The knight and the appropriated tomb", Christ Church Library Newsletter Vol 6 Issue 2 (2010) p. 12

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Leicestershire Places (4) : Quorn

The village of Quorn (shortened from Quorndon in 1889 to avoid confusion with a similarly named village in Derbyshire) is believed to have been in existence since the early 1200s at least. The name Quorndon is thought to be derived from the Old English for "Hill where millstones are maintained" (Cweorndun) and indeed quarrying for stone for use in millstones has been in existence in the area since the Iron Age.

The country house Quorn Hall became the home of the fox hunter Hugo Meynell in 1753 and later gave it's name to the famous Quorn Hunt.

The village gained a railway station on the Great Central Railway in 1899. This closed in the 1960s but was re-opened as part of the preserved Great Central Railway in the 1970s. And yes the meat substitute quorn is named after the village!

Friday 3 April 2020

Churches (58) : St Martin, Dorking

St Martin's is the parish church of Dorking, Surrey. The church was originally built in the 12th century probably to replace the earlier church which was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The church was extended in the 14th century with side aisles. However little of the original church remains visible, though the original floors and walls remain in the vaults.

The church was extensively renovated in the 19th century with parts including the nave and tower (and spire) rebuilt during two phases of rebuilding in the 1830s and 1870s. The church is built from black flints and Bath stone.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

History of the Zip

The zip file format is one of those vital pieces of computer technology that often gets overlooked. In the early days of home computing disk space was limited and internet speeds were generally slow, therefore file compression was very important. A smaller file took up less disk space and less time to download.

As this interesting page on the history and technical details of the zip file format shows in the early days of home internet use Arc was the first popular compression software but in 1989 the zip format was created by Phil Katz and very quickly became the most popular method of data compression used by millions of users on many millions of files. It is still used to this day usually embedded into other software to save file sizes and also to tidy up collections of files into a single zip.