Monday 19 February 2024

Golden Age (42) : Called Back

In Called Back by Hugh Conway, a blind man witnesses (though not be sight of course) a terrible crime, a murder. Later on his blindness is cured and he falls in love with a mysterious woman. However, he knows that she was involved in the crime but not exactly how...

Although the book was apparently a success when released in the late 19th century, and was adapted into a stage play, i found this a troublesome and frequently annoying read. 

The story moves on at a pace though i found it rather melodramatic and the plot a bit too fanciful, though a common fault/feature (delete depending on your point of view) of the time.

Sunday 18 February 2024


After last weekend's fiasco i went into this week's attempt at a railway adventure with a little trepidation, luckily everything went without a hitch (well ok maybe the odd train was a couple of minutes late). I went to Congleton in Cheshire. First of all i walked part of the Macclesfield Canal (which was more a mudpath than a towpath in places but still very interesting) then into the nice little market town itself.

Friday 16 February 2024

Churches (211) : St Gregory, Offchurch

The parish church of St Gregory in the aptly named Offchurch in Warwickshire dates from the 12th century. It probably replaced a Saxon church which may have been built during the reign of King Offa of Mercia in the late eighth century. No trace of the Saxon church remains though the local legend has it that if you jump off the roof of the church then King Offa will rise out of the ground and catch you. I have not tested this.

The church has a west tower, north vestry, chancel and a nave with a south porch. The church is built from local red sandstone and grey ashlar. Much of the church is Norman including the nave and chancel.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Birmingham's Railways, release day!

Today is the official release date for my first book, on the railways of Birmingham and how they have changed over the last ten years. Although the book has been on sale online for a while now, hopefully soon i will be able to see it in the shops. Is this the end of my new career as an author, by no means. I am sure there will be more to come. 

Wednesday 14 February 2024

On the NET

A Nottingham Express Transit (NET) tram approaches Ruddington Lane.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

The Landywood alternative

I had planned to go to Bedfordshire on Saturday but my train broke down and i spent two hours stuck just outside Northampton, there wasn't time to thus go onto my intended destination so i aborted the trip. On Sunday instead i went to Landywood in South Staffordshire. Not so far, though my train was delayed an hour! I am wondering if i have a curse at the moment? Anyway you can see my photos here.

Monday 12 February 2024

Golden Age (41) : Death knows no calendar

Death knows no calendar is an excellent locked room mystery by John Bude. An artist is found dead in her studio, apparently murdered by someone but the room was locked from the inside so how did it happen?

The amateur detective in this Golden Age novel is Boddy, a former Army officer. He begins to investigate a varied set of suspects, who all possibly had competed for the artist's affections, including a missing priest and the victim's partner.

An interesting murder mystery, though maybe not one for many surprises. The mystery works more for it's ingenuity of how the fairly obvious culprit carried out the crime than anything else but it a perfectly decent story.

Friday 9 February 2024

Churches (210) : St Michael and All Angels, Marden

The parish church of St Michael and All Angels in Marden in Kent was first built around 1200. There were additions and alternations in the following centuries and the church was restored in 1868 and 1909. The church has a nave with north and south aisles. The chancel also has chapels on the north and south sides. There is a tower to the west which was one of the additions to the church in the 13th century.

The church is built from coursed and random sandstone, rag stone and pudding stone.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Model week : Back on track?

Last year my model railway was completely shut down as i wanted to use the space for my typewriter workshop. However, i think it is possible the space could be shared with a cut down small railway layout and i have begun some design work on it in a possible tiny space (about half the size of the old layout). It may require some innovation with the design to get a good layout. The layout will use my British N gauge stock.

Monday 5 February 2024

Northamptonshire Places (5) : Northampton

The county town of Northamptonshire is located towards the south of it's county. The place is first mentioned in 914 as Ham Tune. North was added to the name to distinguish it from Southampton! By the time of the Domesday Book the town was known as Northantone, the current spelling did not appear until about the 17th century.

Northampton was a Saxon settlement (though there have been earlier settlements found in the area dating back to the Bronze Age. Northampton was attacked a number of times by the Danes in the 10th century including being burnt down a couple of times. However, the town survived and after the Norman Conquest became an important strategic location.

A castle was built in Northampton by the first Earl of Northampton in 1084. The castle was used as a royal residence by a number of monarchs including King John who kept his treasury there. Little of the castle remains these days, the railway station has largely been built on the castle's site!

The town became a centre for religious dissent in later centuries including Puritanism and became a Parliament stronghold in the Civil War. Fairfax marched from Northampton when the Roundheads defeated the Royalists at Naseby in 1645. Supporting the Parliament war effort helped kickstart the town's boot making industry, this remained an important industry for the town until the 19th century.

In latter years Northampton has continued to grow though the boot and leather industries which once employed over a third of the town's men has now mostly gone apart from some specialist manufacturers. Many people now commute to London thanks to the railway and other transport links.

Sunday 4 February 2024

Birmingham waterways

I was supposed to go to London yesterday (and do the Baker Street Hidden London tour i had to cancel due to illness last year) but guess what... i am ill again so didn't go (and there was a rail strike too anyway). I think this tour is cursed for me so i probably won't try for a third time (lucky).

Instead i walked the canals in central Birmingham, walking the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal from Farmer's Bridge Junction through to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal as far as Bath Row. Its an ill wind, the canal walk was finr though i was looking forward to the Baker Street tour but that is life.

Friday 2 February 2024

Churches (209) : St Peter and St Paul, Steeple Aston

The parish church of St Peter & St Paul in Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire dates from the 13th century with additions in the following centuries. The chancel was rebuilt in 1684. The church was restored in 1842 and 1873, the north aisle being partially rebuilt. A vestry was added in 1909.

The church has a nave with north and south aisles, a chancel and a west tower. The church is built from limestone and coursed marlstone rubble.

Thursday 1 February 2024

Wootton Wawen Aqueduct

Wootton Wawen aqueduct, in the Warwickshire village of Wootton Wawen, is one of the three aqueducts on the southern section of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Like the other two aqueducts (called Yarningale and Edstone) the Wootton Wawen aqueduct is unusual in having the towpath on the same level as the canal bottom, thus the water is roughly at human waist level!

The aqueduct was erected in 1813 by the Stratford Canal Company. It is a cast iron trough with an integrated towpath.

Tuesday 30 January 2024


On Saturday i headed up to Cheshire to visit the rather nice, and pretty rural Cheshire village of Wrenbury-cum-Frith, which had a nice little church of course. The village also has the Llangollen canal pass by it so i also walked that, you can see photos of the canal walk here, and other Wrenbury photos here.

Monday 29 January 2024

Northamptonshire Places (4) : Corby

The town of Corby is located in the north of the county. The town has 8th century origins. The Danes formed a settlement called Koris By (Koris' settlement), by the time of the Domesday Book the name had changed to Corbei. Corby was granted a charter to hold annual fairs and have a market by King Henry III in 1226. 

Iron ore mines have been in the area since Roman times. An ironstone industry developed in the 19th century which helped Corby grow rapidly from a village to an industrial town. The steel making industry began in Corby in the mid-1930s with workers from elsewhere coming to Corby to further increase it in size. The population grew from 1,500 in 1931 to around 12,000 by the end of the decade! Corby was designated a New Town in 1950. Corby continued to grow as the steel industry flourished.

However, as with many industrial towns in Britain big changes and decline came in the 1970s and 1980s with the closure of Corby steelworks. New industries have come to the town in recent years helping the economy to recover. Corby's railway station (which opened in 1879) closed in 1967, re-opened in 1987 then closed again in 1990! Corby was one of the largest towns in Europe without a railway station but it re-opened again in 2009 and the line has now been electrified with regular trains to London so hopefully this time it should remain open!

Friday 26 January 2024

Churches (208) : St Helen, Clifford Chambers

The parish church of St Helen in Clifford Chambers, Warwickshire has existed since the late 11th century with a rebuilding in the mid-12th. Surviving traces of the church's Norman origins include the nave doorways and a pillar piscina (a basin for washing communion vessels). The church's west tower has perpendicular features. The church has a north vestry and a south porch.

The church is made from rubble and Cotswold stone. It was restored in 1886.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Return to Northampton

At the weekend i went to Northampton, my second trip though the first was a number of years ago. Back then i was only really interested in taking photographs of railways and canals so missed the churches and anything else out, what a mistake that was because Northampton has several rather wonderful old churches and more besides. You can see my photos here.

Monday 22 January 2024

Northamptonshire Places (3) : Kettering

The town of Kettering is in the northern half of the county. Kettering has Saxon orgins, the name meaning the place of Ketter's people though there has been settlement in the area since at least the Iron Age, traces of a Roman settlement have also been found under the present day Kettering. The Saxon village of Kettering (or Keteriringen as one spelling has it) may have existed since the 10th century. Kettering first appears in a royal charter in 956CE.

Kettering gained a market charter in 1227 under King Henry III. The manor was held by the Abbey of Peterborough. By the 17th century the town was becoming known for woollen cloth. In the 19th century the boot and shoe industry helped the town grow in size. Large footwear manufacturers continued to have factories in the town into the 20th century though nowadays most of the industry has moved away. In the 19th century the town became a centre for iron smelting though this industry also died out in recent decades.

Kettering gained a railway station in 1857. The parish church of St Peter & St Paul has Norman origins though the church was rebuilt in the 15th century.