Sunday, 31 January 2016

Postman's Park (41): the deadly Thames

Given that the Thames was probably more polluted in the nineteenth century than it is today, its popularity as a place to swim is a testament both to the hardiness of children and to the need for adequate swimming pool provision. However, disease was not the only risk faced by river users: Postman's Park also records a number of river deaths. We've already considered the heroic acts of Samuel Lowdell, bargeman, and Joseph Onslow, lighterman, who died rescuing drowning boys; young David Selves and John Clinton were trying to save friends when they succumbed.


Boating also posed its own risks, especially given the high volume of river traffic in the nineteenth century: we saw how Ernest Benning died after his boat capsized, while the Rev Garnish perished attempting to rescue the victims of a boating collision. A similar incident was that in which Herbert Peter Cazaly drowned. A thirty-year-old stationer's clerk, he was out with a friend rowing their boat on the Thames when he saw two boats almost collide. A man in one of the boats raised his oars, overbalancing the boat which capsized. He and his companion were thrown into the river; one of them clung onto the upturned boat but the other, a non-swimmer, was in real difficulties. Cazaly jumped in to rescue him, but the panicked man pulled him under and both were drowned.

HERBERT PETER CAZALY STATIONER'S CLERK WHO WAS DROWNED AT KEW IN ENDEAVOURING TO SAVE A MAN FROM DROWNING, APRIL 21 1889.

Even the riverbank was not reliably safe. A boy playing on the bank at Westminster fell into the water. 21-year-old Edward Emery (whose first name is incorrect on the memorial) jumped into the water from a passing paddle-steamer, in an attempt at rescue. The boy survived but Emery, caught in strong currents, did not. The Watts Memorial records not only his bravery, but also his precise address:

EDMUND EMERY OF 272 KING'S ROAD CHELSEA, PASSENGER, LEAPT FROM A THAMES STEAMBOAT TO RESCUE A CHILD AND WAS DROWNED JULY 31 1874.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

What's in a sign?

Shaped to fit the corner of a building (if not its drainpipe), a rather fine cast-iron sign complete with finials adorns a house in rural Brittany. It is absolutely crowded with information, some of which offers a glimpse back into the history of the French road system. 


The first striking feature is its placement high on the wall. Signs were typically placed at a height of 2.5 metres to ensure that they could be read by coach-drivers. Convenient as that was, one hopes that travellers weren't going too fast when they encountered this: in contrast to modern signage, it is not designed to be read at a glance. 


Each side not only offers information on destinations in two directions, but gives precise distances to each. We don't just have kilometres here, but metres, and a grammatically-correct phrase rather than simple name and figure. (And how much easier it would be to read 17,5km rather than 17k500.) There are serifs and superscript galore. 

Before we even get to the key information, though, we have quite a lot of verbiage to get through. At the top is 'Cotes du Nord', the old name for the Cotes d'Armor department. (It was changed in 1990 to avoid confusion with another department, Nord.) This least-helpful information - a department is broadly equivalent to an English county, and this sign is not even close to its border - is nonetheless the largest and most prominent on the sign. 

Next comes a real alphabet soup of abbreviations and information. On the right-hand panel, it reads 'Chin d'Intet Cun No 4, de Collinee a la Greve de la Grand'ville'. Our reader would need to decode the various contractions in order to give 'Chemin d'Interet Commun Numero 4, de Collinee a la Greve de la Grand'ville' (Way of Common Interest Number 4, from Collinee to the Grand'ville shore). The other panel concerns a 'chemin de grande communication' (major communication way): number 44, from Corlay to Jugon. 

The destinations are local towns, but what is a 'way of common interest' or 'major communication way'? These date back to 1836: while major roads had been classified in 1811, byways had to wait another quarter-century. They were now divided into two categories, unclassified roads which were the responsibility of each commune (roughly, village) and classified roads which received funding from the department. The latter were in turn further divided into major communication ways and (less important) ways of common interest.

Later in the century, Napoleon III would promote the building and funding of these rural byways, recognising their importance for improving the countryside. He claimed that supporting them was 'the greatest service to render to agriculture'. 

The 'way of common interest' and 'major communication way' would disappear in 1938, a little over a century after their creation. Both categories of classified byway became 'departmental roads'. Thus we have a latest possible date for our sign, but the style does suggest that it is somewhat older. In fact, most of these signs were erected decades or more earlier; by the late nineteenth century, enamelled plaques became the norm, often provided by Touring Club de France or Michelin.

If you want to see more, here are examples from other regions of France, and here's a history in French; here's another, rather different road sign in the same area. For now, though, let's recognise this small artefact as an attractive feature, a window into history, and a reminder of the importance of good graphic design. 



Sunday, 24 January 2016

Postman's Park (40): holiday danger

The nineteenth century saw the beginning of annual holidays for working people. However, such vacations posed their own dangers, not least by taking people to unfamiliar landscapes and waters. The sea off Boulogne, Lincolnshire's quicksand and a Devon riptide took their toll. Another two holiday deaths are recorded in Postman's Park.


John Cranmer Cambridge was described by those who knew him as endowed with the gift of sympathy and happy in the service of others. He went to Ostend with his brother and sisters; ferries sailed to this popular Belgian resort from Dover. It featured a Kursaal (casino) and long, sandy beaches and had been patronised by the Belgian royal family: an unlikely setting for tragedy.

The siblings were bathing on the beach one day when they heard shouts from a man and woman who had got into difficulties in the sea. John knew that the current could be dangerous, but didn't hesitate to enter the sea while his siblings looked for a boat. Initially, the rescue was successful: he helped the woman onto the boat. Unfortunately, he then disappeared from view and his body would only be recovered later. He was buried in Ostend, but is also commemorated here on the Watts Memorial. Always particularly impressed by self-sacrifice for strangers, the memorial makes particular mention that in this case they were foreigners too:

JOHN CRANMER CAMBRIDGE AGED 23, A CLERK IN THE LONDON COUNTY COUNCIL WHO WAS DROWNED NEAR OSTEND WHILST SAVING THE LIFE OF A STRANGER AND A FOREIGNER, AUGUST 8 1901

The English resort of Teignmouth was to prove equally dangerous for holidaying police constable Harold Frank Ricketts. This Devon town had become fashionable in the Georgian period, and its popularity further increased with the coming of the railway in 1846. In 1916, it must have seemed a pleasant retreat from war-obsessed London and its Zeppelin bombing raids - although Teignmouth would by no be means untouched by World War I, with over 175 men from the town losing their lives.

However, for this London police officer, his holiday in Teignmouth would prove fatal. Ricketts was taking his annual leave in the town, visiting his mother-in-law with his new wife, and took a boat trip with the family. They saw a boy  who had got into difficulties swimming in deep water; Ricketts rowed over to attempt a rescue. Sadly, when he reached him, the panicking boy pulled at him and overturned the boat. Its other occupants - and the boy - were rescued; Ricketts, who couldn't swim, died.

PC HAROLD FRANK RICKETTS, METROPOLITAN POLICE, DROWNED AT TEIGNMOUTH WHILST TRYING TO RESCUE A BOY BATHING AND SEEN TO BE IN DIFFICULTY, 11 SEPT 1916

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

At sixes and sevens in Skinners' Hall


The Worshipful Company of Skinners represented an industry which was once seen as essential, today as controversial: the fur trade. In the Middle Ages, they dealt with everything from the ermines and sables worn by nobility to middle-class fox furs; sumptuary laws restricted the working classes to wearing lambskin, rabbit, or cat. A charter of 1327 gave the Company control over the fur trade not only in the City of London, but also at fairs throughout the country. They were responsible for ensuring the quality of furs, and in particular enforced severe penalties against those passing off old furs as new. 


The Skinners are notoriously 'at sixes and sevens' with the Merchant Taylors: when their failure to agree who took precedence became a violent dispute in 1484, the Lord Mayor ordered them to take turns. In the hope that this solution would encourage friendlier relations, he also ordered the Masters and Wardens to dine at each others' halls once a year. When the livery companies' procession order was formally fixed in 1516, the compromise was maintained. Not only do the two companies alternate between sixth and seventh place each year, but they also continue the annual dinners.   


In 1295, the Skinners took out a lease on the site where their hall still stands - although like so many, the current building post-dates the Great Fire of London. Rebuilding began the following year and was completed in 1685. That building has survived to the present day, despite suffering bomb damage in 1944. 

Even when the hall was built, the nature of the Company had changed. Long before the modern concern for animal rights, fur was becoming less profitable for London merchants. Declining supplies (thanks to over-hunting and clearance of forest habitats), foreign competition, and the move of fashion towards fabrics such as silk, satin and velvet, all saw the industry decline. As early as the sixteenth century, the majority of the Company's members were not skinners by trade. Today, the Company's activities are focused upon charity, notably education. 

A handy chair!

Nonetheless, the lynx is visible throughout the building. (Or at least, a heraldic rendering of the wild cat, rather oddly called a 'lizard'.) Its fur was much sought-after by mediaeval aristocrats; no one ranked lower than an Earl was allowed to wear it. 


On the Company's arms, it stands as the crest, while the supporters are a lizard and a marten.


Behind the crested Palladian facade, added in the late eighteenth century, are rooms full of historical interest. The Outer Hall chandelier was a gift from Catherine the Great to the Earl of Malmesbury; it lights panelling which, like that of the Banqueting Hall, was added at the turn of the twentieth century. 


At the same time, the Banqueting Hall also gained painted panels by Sir Frank Brangwyn, showing the history of the Company. Its plain glass replaces stained glass lost in 1944's bombing. 


Gesso panels lining a corridor depict the Company's modern work of education, charity and hospitality. Interestingly, Education was depicted with a roundel in 1903, five years before a similar design appeared in London's Underground stations!





Sunday, 17 January 2016

Postman's Park (39): saving adults from fire



Not only children but also adults at risk from fire have prompted incredibly heroic and determined rescue efforts. We have already seen how Police Constables Robert Wright of Croydon and George Funnell of Hackney, and firemen Joseph Andrew Ford and George Lee, died in similar attempts; Sarah Smith maybe did or didn't attempt to put out a fellow dancer's burning dress.

The efforts of one Mrs Yarman (her name was in fact Mary Jarman) were astonishing, if ultimately doomed. When she and her husband awoke to find their house on fire at two in the morning, they managed to get downstairs through the flames. However, as soon as Mrs Jarman remembered that her 77-year-old mother (or mother-in-law) was still sleeping upstairs, she was determined to save her. She crawled through thick smoke up the stairs, but her husband pulled her back halfway. He then rushed out for help, and as soon as he was gone she made two more attempts. The second time, her husband found her and had to drop her unconscious body to safety through a window before jumping himself. Three days later, she died from her burns; the old lady also died in the fire. It is perhaps particularly sad that although her husband's name and occupation are recorded on the plaque, her own are not.

MRS YARMAN, WIFE OF GEORGE YARMAN LABOURER AT BERMONDSEY, REFUSING TO BE DETERRED FROM MAKING THREE ATTEMPTS TO CLIMB A BURNING STAIRCASE TO SAVE HER AGED MOTHER DIED OF THE EFFECTS MARCH 26 1900


George Frederick Simonds showed similar bravery although his rescue attempt and death were swifter. He was a general dealer in Prebend Street, Islington (and, John Price points out, actually called Frederick George Simons) and friends with Mrs Corke, an elderly widow who lived nearby. When he saw that her house was on fire, he immediately rushed in to save her but became overwhelmed by smoke. He did make an attempt to escape from the staircase window but missed his footing and fell eighteen feet into the yard below. Meanwhile, Mrs Corke had escaped from the back of the house.

GEORGE FREDERICK SIMONDS OF ISLINGTON RUSHED INTO A BURNING HOUSE TO SAVE AN AGED WIDOW AND DIED OF HIS INJURIES, DEC 1 1886.


James Bannister rushed into a burning draper's shop in Bow to rescue a shop assistant overcome by smoke. The business was a large one, spreading over three buildings but with only one exit, and the conflagration correspondingly impressive. Bannister was a labourer at the auction rooms opposite, and rushed in to save people - but was later found dead, overcome by fumes, a few feet from the similarly-overcome body of window-dresser Henry Ludlow.

JAMES BANNISTER OF BOW, AGED 30, RUSHED OVER WHEN AN OPPOSITE SHOP CAUGHT FIRE AND WAS SUFFOCATED IN THE ATTEMPT TO SAVE LIFE, OCT 14 1901.

Finally, returning to the theme of men in uniformed service with which we began, John Slade was a private in the Royal Fusiliers. This was a local infantry regiment formed in 1685, also known as the City of London Regiment. However, unlike the firemen and police officers killed in the line of duty, Slade was off-duty when he rushed into his own home to save others from fire; he too died in the attempt.

JOHN SLADE, PRIVATE 4TH BATT ROYAL FUSILIERS OF STEPNEY, WHEN HIS HOUSE CAUGHT FIRE SAVED ONE MAN AND DASHING UPSTAIRS TO ROUSE OTHERS LOST HIS LIFE, DEC 26 1902.




Wednesday, 13 January 2016

From Bric-a-Brac to Aquarium in Dinard


In 1934, one of France's first aquariums opened in the seaside town of Dinard, Brittany. An upscale resort established in 1858, it was known for its stylish shopping and elegant seafront villas. One such home, Villa Bric-a-Brac, has played a rather special role in the life of the resort, both before and after it was home to that aquarium. 


One William Faber had fallen in love with what was then a fishing village and its views while staying in Dinan. He not only moved to Dinard, but encouraged his English-speaking friends to join him. When Faber died in 1854, his wife Lyona continued to develop the resort: she built and sold villas, while the town also gained hotels, sea-bathing facilities, an Anglican church, and a steamer linking it to Saint-Malo. The seaside resort was born, and would retain strong connections with Britain. 

Plaque commemorating 100 years of the British in Dinard (1836-1936)

From the 1880s until the First World War, Dinard was France's premier seaside resort. It had yachting, golf and tennis clubs and casinos; Agatha Christie and Oscar Wilde both came for family holidays; and the Prince of Wales visited incognito. The wealthy American Mrs Hughes Hallett held fashionable parties in her Villa Monplaisir. In a 1901 Pittsburgh Press article describing her as the 'Queen of Dinard', she urged her fellow Americans to seek 'repose' rather than money while boasting of an exhausting-sounding social life centred on her 'ball room at Dinard [which] seats 300.' Yachtspeople and Americans were welcome: 'I always try to have my old friends with me. Yes, it is true that King Edward when he was the Prince of Wales said I was the most beautiful woman in America, but then princes, you know, flatter sometimes.'


Among the properties Lyona Faber built for this fashionable town was Villa Bric-a-Brac, bought in 1873 by Robert Hamilton, a Scottish Colonel and veteran of the Crimean War. He extended it and made it more castle-like in appearance. In 1923, it was acquired by the town to prevent over-development of the site by speculators.


Meanwhile, in 1882, the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle (National Museum of Natural History) had opened a maritime station on the Normandy island of Tatihou. Jean Charcot advised a move to Brittany in 1923, initially to the village of Saint Servan. In 1935, it relocated to the former Villa Bric-a-Brac, with an aquarium and museum buildings added by architect Yves Hémar. 


The roof of the aquarium served as a terrace, decorated by Eden Rediscovered, a statue of Eve whose unapologetic nudity apparently shocked the town's residents. (By contrast, the museum's Professor Gruvel had specifically requested that the sculpture, created in 1875 for the entrance to the reptile house in Paris, be installed.)


Jean-Baptiste Charcot knew Dinard before the marine research station moved here: he had taken part in summer regattas. (He also won two silver medals for sailing at the 1900 Olympics.) However, Charcot's reputation rested not upon yachting but upon polar exploration, first on the Francais and then on his most famous ship Pourquoi Pas. He would die on board the Pourquoi Pas IV when it was wrecked off the coast of Iceland in 1936.  

Jean-Baptiste Charcot

In the Dinard aquarium were 25 tanks, showing about a hundred species from the region. These may not have been much competition for the more obviously tourist-friendly aquaria in Saint Malo and Brest, but then the primary purpose of the site was research. It even had its own boat, used to take measurements and collect samples and specimens. 


Eventually, the cost of maintaining and updating the buildings and the challenge of attracting visitors saw the Aquarium close in 1996. The laboratory moved out of the town to new premises in 2008. For some years, the villa would remain empty, but in spring 2015 it reopened as a hotel. The aquarium itself is now a bar; its exterior and original doors are beautifully restored, and complemented by decor which stylishly develops the aquarium theme. 



Image of Jean-Baptiste Charcot from Wikimedia Commons. 
Postcard of aquarium interior from Sauvons le Musée-Aquarium d'Arcachon.



Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Crouch End Modernism: Hornsey Town Hall

 
Hornsey Borough Council, eager to move from its original, outgrown home in Highgate, wanted to use land in Crouch End for its new town hall. (Bought in the 1920s, it had been set out as a public park.) However, the site was awkwardly-shaped, since the area was already built-up, and there was a lot to fit on it. In addition to the council chamber and offices, the council also wanted a large multi-purpose hall - and expenditure of no more than £100,000. Quite a challenge for the potential architect.


A competition was held in 1933, won by New Zealander Reginald Uren - a friend of Frank Pick and Charles Holden. In fact, he had accompanied them on their European trip which also inspired Holden's architecture for the Piccadilly Line. Indeed, in 1938 he and Holden would work together on the station at Rayner's Lane.

Uren completed this building in 1935, and the Town Hall was opened with great pomp on 4 November. The Duke of Kent attended; the Mayor was moved to tears; and there was top-quality entertainment for the guests. In the time it took them to tour the new rooms, the sprung floor of the main hall could be raised for dancing, using a mechanism still visible today.


Although some disliked the new building, it also attracted much admiration and Uren won the RIBA London Architecture Medal for it.

Uren's first major British commission, the building bears his influence on all its details - right down to specially-designed window handles. Sinuous lines and geometric patterns repeat and complement each other, in the wood panelling, metalwork, glass panels, and floors. The design in the floor of the hall lobby is not purely decorative, but marks out a queuing system!


Such elegant practicality pervades the building, with natural lighting throughout and features such as a large committee room which can be subdivided into three smaller ones using sliding panels. And each sub-divided room still has its own clock; indeed, there are plenty of them throughout the building, and all were controlled centrally.


The tower is not purely decorative, but holds electrical equipment for the building. However, during construction, locals worried that a factory was being built!


Inside the council chamber, a sloped back wall acts as a sounding board. The curving table surface in front of the seating holds individual drawers.


Such attention to councillors' convenience is even more apparent in the Mayor's office. It had its own bathroom (a feature absent from many people's homes at the time) as well as its own fireplace. 


In 1963, Hornsey became part of the new borough of Haringey, with a town hall in Wood Green. The former Hornsey Town Hall was demoted to an office building, and eventually ceased its municipal functions. The condition of the fabric has suffered; the effects of a flat roof and blocked gutters are painfully visible in the main hall. A fault-line is developing where the two parts of the building, the administrative and entertainment areas, meet.


The future of the building, now Grade II* listed, is not assured. It is currently the HTH Arts Centre, as well as a popular filming location (you may have seen its interior on Eastenders). Let us hope that it can achieve the stability, care and restoration it now needs.


There is one more tour scheduled, for 2pm on Sunday 17 January. Click here to book tickets




Sunday, 3 January 2016

Postman's Park (38): died saving children from fire



Mr and Mrs Kennedy had a laundry at Edward's Lane, Stoke Newington Church Street. They and their children lived on the premises, made up of two small houses. At about 3.30 one morning, a fire began and was spotted by the police who gave the alarm to the occupants. Amelia, at 19 perhaps the oldest of the children, went through the passage joining the two houses to wake her brothers before returning to wake her sister. However, she was overcome and died in the house; meanwhile, her sister escaped. The cause of the fire was unknown and the premises uninsured.

At the inquest, it emerged that the fire engines only began fighting the fire 40 minutes after the police originally gave the alarm. The reasons were apparently that first, horses had to be obtained and second, the water plugs in the road were blocked. They had been choked with granite when the road was repaved. The inquest verdict included a recommendation that the horses should be kept at the fire station and the plugs constantly visited to ensure they were in working order.

AMELIA KENNEDY AGED 19 DIED IN TRYING TO SAVE HER SISTER FROM THEIR BURNING HOUSE IN EDWARD'S LANE STOKE NEWINGTON, OCT 18 1871

The instinct to save children from house fires seems to have been as strong as it was dangerous. We have already seen Alice Ayres die saving her nieces and nephews, while Ellen Donovan perished attempting to save a neighbour's children. Four other deaths recorded in Postman's Park followed a similar pattern:


Alice Maud Denman and her family lived above a timber yard at 423 Hackney Road. When the house set on fire in 1902, her six children were sleeping inside. She and neighbour Arthur Regelous tried to rescue them, but both adults and four of the children died. Only two children survived the blaze; it seems that a lodger, Alice Briggs, also died. Denman's husband was away from the house at the time, returning later to learn of the tragedy. 

Denman and Regelous are remembered not only in Postman's Park, but also by a memorial fountain in Bethnal Green Museum Gardens. The deaths of so many people, none older than 27, and the heroism  of the attempted rescues, drew large crowds to the funerals. A fund was then set up by CE Fox, Mayor of Bethnal Green; even the Princess of Wales contributed £10. The fountain was erected in 1903. 

ARTHUR REGELOUS, CARMAN ("LITTLE PETER") AGED 25 WHO WITH ALICE MAUD DENMAN, AGED 27, DIED IN TRYING TO SAVE HER CHILDREN FROM A BURNING HOUSE IN BETHNAL GREEN, APRIL 20 1902.


Elizabeth Coughlam was lighting a paraffin lamp, when it burst into flame and set her clothes alight. Afraid that they would set the house on fire and menace the two children who were asleep upstairs, she hurried outside with clothes and lamp blazing. Her efforts succeeded, but at a terrible cost: despite the attempts of neighbours to save her, she died in hospital that day from her injuries.

ELIZABETH COGHLAM AGED 26, OF CHURCH PATH STOKE NEWINGTON, DIED SAVING HER FAMILY AND HOUSE BY CARRYING BLAZING PARAFFIN TO THE YARD, JAN 1 1902.

Finally, eight-year-old Henry Bristow was a cabinet-maker's son who lived in Walthamstow. When his mother left the house on an errand, she put Henry in charge of his three-year-old sister. The little girl knocked over a paraffin lamp, setting her clothes on fire. Henry tore them off, but his own clothes caught alight in the process. He was seriously injured and died from his injuries in hospital. More happily, his little sister made a complete recovery.




Thursday, 31 December 2015

Top ten of 2015

Happy new year! It's time to look back on the most popular posts of 2015 with a top ten of those published during the year, and a top five of all-time favourites. 


Top ten of the year
Posts featuring London unsurprisingly dominated in popularity - but Glastonbury and Wells in Somerset also made a strong showing! 

Livery halls were popular this year (not coincidentally, they were also the main them of London Historians' events programme). Our first entry, at number ten, is Stationers' Hall;  I also visited Vintners' Hall - and another, which we'll see higher up the list. 


Number nine was the very atmospheric Tower of London by night. We stay with the Thames for a mysterious clay pipe bowl at number eight: just what does it depict? 

Far outside London, it's a derelict factory site in Glastonbury which takes seventh place. (No doubt it's the photo of my Dad in his fashionable youth which deserves the credit!). And one place ahead is nearby Wells Cathedral's incredibly old and beautiful staircase.


We're back in the city for number five. Deep, deep in the city: the Crossrail dig at Liverpool Street allowed archaeologists to explore the Bedlam burial ground, and to go down to Roman levels. I got to see some beautiful finds - and one slightly lewd one.

The extraordinary, eerie Redsands Fort in the Thames Estuary was in fourth place. Regular boat trips are now available, and plans are being made for their future: good news for London history enthusiasts, given their important role in protecting the capital during World War II. 

Third place goes to another livery hall, the grand and beautiful Drapers' Hall.



In second place is an unusual visit to City Lock on the Regent's Canal. Thanks to maintenance work, it was emptied and dry, so this is a look around inside in a way that's rarely possible. More conventional in access, but a stunning and relatively little-known jewel of a gallery, is Two Temple Place. Subject of this year's most popular post, it's a fabulous late-Victorian house now used for an annual show highlighting publicly-owned collections from around the UK. The next exhibition opens on 30 January: make a note in that brand-new diary now!



And an honourable mention for the most popular ghost sign of the year (which took eleventh place). Along with some rather fine shop signage, a Glastonbury sign reminds us of the days when snail mail ruled!

Finally, the pages have also been very popular, especially Unusual London Places to Visit. Not far behind are those dedicated to Postman's Park and to ghost signs; but even the rather niche page on Deptford Power Station, 1912 has attracted a growing number of readers this year.


All-time top five

Which posts have been most popular over the life of the blog? The most surprising result for me was the reminder that I began it as long ago as 2008!

In fifth place is the intriguing Stone House on Lewisham Way. Completely different to its neigbhours, this Palladian villa is usually hidden behind garden walls but does let in visitors for Open House Weekend. For the rest of the year, you can sneak a glimpse from the top deck of the bus!

One place ahead is a Bridgwater ghost sign - though I've linked not to the original post but to an updated account, which not only sees its wording fully deciphered but also dates it to within a couple of years! 

Places three and two take us back to London. Perhaps incongruously for a site celebrating the city, these show its ugly side. First, the physical ugliness of an appalling piece of facadism; then the choking pollution of a very pedestrian-unfriendly Thames crossing. Rotherhithe Tunnel - I walked it so you don't have to...


The most popular post is, slightly mysteriously, one on the creepy catacombs of Paris. I suspect that this owes less to the content than to image searches for 'skulls'.


And on that cheery note, my very best wishes for 2016!



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