Thursday, 11 February 2016

SSR bridge - in brown & yellow


Bridge on South Staffordshire Railway Walk

The South Staffordshire Railway Walk is a footpath that makes use of the now disused SSR line, but you can walk beneath its bridges of course, as I was doing here.
Somebody carefully restores the paintwork every so often - even though the railway company itself folded in 1923, giving way to the LNWR. 
These colours - a mud-brown shade, with borders of yellow must have been the colours of the SSR itself, one supposes.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Essex Bridge, for a Queen

Essex Bridge

Built for Queen Elizabeth I nearly five centuries ago, this little stone bridge, the 'Essex Bridge', crosses the River Trent a few miles from Cannock Chase.
The Earl of Essex built it, they say, so that the Queen could ride across it, from his stately home on the one side, to the forests beyond. Thus she could do some hunting whenever she stayed in this neck of the woods.
The little v-shaped niches are for passers-by to stand aside in safety when something broader comes on.

Of course, the locals just use it to cross the water, as a short-cut, not bothering too much about its history. And, why not?

Friday, 5 February 2016

Deadman in cemetery

Deadman grave in Rugeley Cemetery

I'm afraid I'm one of those who find cemeteries, especially older ones, endlessly entertaining.
Where else could one's sense of irony be reinforced - by finding the grave of Mr Deadman?

Mr Deadman's angel-monument in Rugeley Cemetery is curiously old-fashioned  - you'd have thought it was a late nineteenth century piece, not one made in 1944, which is when Mr Deadman died.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Werburgh, a home-grown saint

Saint Werburgh statue on Lichfield Cathedral

It's the feast-day of Saint Werburgh on February 3rd, so spare a thought for her this week. 
She is one of Staffordshire's own home-grown saints, which is why she has her own special niche on the frontage of Lichfield Cathedral (see photo).

The story of her relics (ie her bones) is an odd one, because they were whizzed away from her grave as the Vikings advanced - in order to find a safer resting-place for them.  They ended up in Chester, but were destroyed (historians believe) in the Reformation.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Enigmatic pediment


There is no indication on this building, in Uttoxeter’s main square, Market Place, as to who once owned it in times past. There are almost no clues in the sculpture relief you see here in the picture.  If I knew its history, I could perhaps tell you more about it.  However, its secret is safe, until I get some time to research it.
The enigmatic smile on the face at the top seems to be mocking my ignorance...
Oh well!
(If anyone knows more about this relief, and its significance, you’d save me a trip to the library if you’d leave a comment below. Gratefully received...)

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Salt Pepper and Vinegar

Bottle ovens known as Salt Pepper and Vinegar

These three bottle ovens are known locally as Salt Pepper and Vinegar, because they are as long and slender as table cruets.  And yes, they are different in shape to most of the squat, fat bottle ovens in north Staffordshire.  They have a different function – being used not to fire pottery ware, but to calcine flint, so that the flint could more easily be ground down for use in various processes.

Their heyday was the 19th century of course, and now they are preserved (as Grade 2 listed) memories of the past, as part of the Bottle Ovens Conservation Scheme. James Kent Pottery now owns the site, and they have occasional open-days when the public can get a little closer.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

A wonder house - in an ordinary place

Speedwell Castle

This ‘Gothick’-style wonder of a house is Speedwell Castle, which is slap-bang in the middle of Brewood on the main crossroads.
It’s said that, around 1750, a local man won such an outrageous bet (that he had placed on a horse called Speedwell) that he was able to fund this building project with the winnings.

The story seems odd to me. 
Why did he build right on top of the crossroads (unless it was an extension to an existing house, I suppose)? 
The fact is that: two rather uninteresting pubs face the house; the frontage is right on to the road (ie a very less than grand entrance); and the posh end of Brewood is actually 200 yards away (near the church). 
I wonder if the man, an apothecary by the name of William Rock, just wanted to impress his immediate neighbours, and used his sudden rise in fortune to publicise his rise in fortune - in an unmissable spot?  In other words, a self-aggrandising vanity project?  I wonder.

It’s now converted into flats.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Too graphic for church?

The Annunciation panel at Saint Edward Confessor Church

This curiously sexual wooden panel relief can be seen in the Lady Chapel of Saint Edward Confessor Church at Leek.  The church is the grand old lady of Leek and is fascinating for any visitor, especially anyone who likes stained-glass.

I thought this depiction of The Annunciation was rather graphic for a church (or am I just old-fashioned?), so I bought the guide to find out when it had been done, and by whom.  It's actually quite a fine piece of work anyway.
However... the guide does not mention this piece at all. I wonder if the wardens preferred not to draw attention to it?

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Famous photograph

Converging railway lines in snow

This form of photograph is quite famous.  There is something bleak and yet profound about converging railway lines rolling into the infinite distance - which is why photographers like it.

This last snowfall was a nice one - thick and not damp.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Locked into a cave

Cave lock-up at Wetton

It's strange how often one comes across a small hillside cave that has a locked grille-gate to it.
I have never quite figured out what's going on though. My first guess is that someone found the cave and thought it might be a useful storage area or temporary animal pen - especially as they are often in remoter areas - so they put in a secure gate and a lintel to hold it in place. 
One shudders to think that it might have been used as a prison/lock-up for humans. 
But I really don't know.
This one is on the road at Dale Bridge near Wetton.