27 May 2018

The Hayes Farm windmill


My eagle-eyed map-loving windmill-fan friend Jill can spot a windmill symbol on a map a mile away. Unfortunately, I didn’t show her the OS map until after our walk. Fortunately, the location of this particular windmill symbol is just a short distance from one of my regular walking routes so I added it on to my next visit. 


Fortunately, too, Jill didn’t miss much, as little can now be seen of the windmill, fenced off as it is behind high concrete posts strung with teal-plastic-covered wire netting and untended trees and shrubs. Though considered important enough to be Grade II listed and included on the Vale of Glamorgan’s own report of ‘County Treasures’, this important piece of Glamorgan’s industrial heritage has been badly neglected and is crumbling away.



The British Listed Buildings websiteprovides the following history of the windmill:

Hayes Farm was a model farm built 1813 at the end of the Napoleonic Wars by Evan Thomas of Llwynmadog Estate, Brecknockshire (1778-1832). Thomas bought the manor of Sully in 1812 and modernised the agriculture of the area according to best practice of the period. He brought together 7 farms into 2 model complexes managed by bailiffs: Cog Farm and Hayes Farm. The farmers were re-housed, field sizes increased, and facilities improved. Unusually for farms of the day, Hayes and possibly Cog had their own windmills to grind corn. Edward Harrie and William Stoddard are recorded as millers from 1821-28. The mill was of the revolving cap type and was later enhanced by horse walk and gearing, an oil engine installed c1902. The surrounding farm land was sold for industrial development in 1947 and the farm closed in 1950s.


And here is their description of the treasures of stone and metal, hidden away behind all that greenery:

Exterior
A stone tower mill with attached granary and barn. The windmill tower is of coursed rubble limestone, with patches of render; the cap is missing. There are iron joists of a former gantry at 2 thirds height, with a blocked access on the north side. Two windows, one above the other, are below this on the west side, and one and a doorway on the east. On the south, a door opens at first floor level into the granary.
The granary and barn form a long rectangular range, now roofless, of rubble stone with red brick dressings, mostly cambered-arched openings. Tall round -headed threshing arches opposite one another towards the centre. The building formerly had 2 floors, with a granary to the west and barn to the east. Lower level extensions were at each end, with cartsheds at right angles. Ruins of other buildings stand to the south and west, single storey range to W. The farmhouse is on the opposite side of Hayes Road.
Interior
Inside the tower the hurst frame retains 2 pairs of stones and stone nuts. The drive post is complete with wallower and spur wheel. Another drive passes through the wall.

Image grabbed from Google Earth

The Hayes Farm windmill is the only windmill in south Wales where there are still parts of the original machinery in situ yet, if nothing is done to maintain and conserve it, that machinery may soon be covered by the mill's collapsed rubble. Such a shame!



15 April 2018

Inns and their signs: Dorset, 1


A few months have passed since my excellent Christmas holiday in the Dorset – Hampshire – Somerset area, yet I haven’t written up these pub signs I photographed. Time to remedy that!


The Tippling Philosopher, Milborne Port
Now admittedly this 16th-century pub doesn’t have a very inspiring sign, especially considering its wonderful name, but it’s because of that name and the fact that the pub’s website actually has some good detail about its history that I’m including this one. Oh, and my friend Sarah and I also enjoyed a very nice lunch here.


To summarise the website: A tippler was an ale maker, and a local tippler was plying his trade on this very site from at least the mid 17th century. It is likely that the actual ‘Tippling Philosopher’ was one Robert Boyle, an eminent physicist, chemist and philosopher (who developed Boyle’s Law  and whose father Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, owned much of the land around Milborne Port. It seems Robert may have spent his evenings in this very alehouse, pontificating on his theories of life, the universe and everything. (The website has even more fascinating snippets of history if you’ve a mind to know more.) 


The Grosvenor Arms, Shaftesbury
Though there has been an inn (previously named The Red Lion) at this location since the medieval era, the current building is elegant Georgian, rebuilt and renamed The Grosvenor Arms when purchased by the Grosvenor family in 1820. 

The pub sign shows the family’s coat of arms, whose motto Virtus non stemma means Virtue, not pedigree. 

The hounds supporting the shield are Talbot dogs, which were introduced to Britain as hunting dogs by the Normans.


The George, Sherborne
The sign claims that The George is the oldest pub in Sherborne and that may well be true, as the British Listed Buildings website states that the building may date from the early 16th century, when it formed part of Becket’s Chapel or Hospital. The building has since been much altered, though it retains enough of its original features to maintain its Grade II listing. The sign shows a very well drawn version of the traditional story of St George slaying the dragon


The Half Moon, Sherborne
Unfortunately I’ve found no information about The Half Moon. The building looks old, though not as old as many in Sherborne town centre, and I assume the inn is named after its location in Half Moon Street. The pub’s sign also appears modern but I like its stylistic simplicity.



The Plume of Feathers, Sherborne
Dating from around 1590, The Plume of Feathers enjoys a prime location immediately opposite stunning Sherborne Abbey. 

It is a building of two parts: the left side of three storeys retains its 16th- or early 17th-century stone mullioned windows, while the right side, of two storeys, dates from some time in the 19th century. 

The plume of feathers symbol, and its accompanying motto Ich dien (I serve), can be seen adorning many British pubs, and is in common use in many other contexts: it can be seen on the reverse of the old 2 pence coins, it’s the logo of the Welsh Rugby team, and, of course, it’s the official badge of The Prince of Wales. You can read more about the origins of the badge here.


The White Hart, Sherborne
Like the plume of feathers above, the white hart is another very common inn name – the fifth most popular, in fact, and another that’s associated with royalty. The white hart was the personal badge of Richard II, and the creature itself (a leucistic adult male red deer) has a long and interesting place in Celtic and later Christian myth and history. Sherborne’s White Hart is set amongst a row of Grade-II listed buildings in the very heart of that historic town, and looks a very nice place to enjoy a glass or two.

18 March 2018

Mad Jack’s Follies

Fancy a walk? Okay, let’s go! We’re in Brightling, a tiny hamlet sitting atop the Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in East Sussex, and we’ve come to discover some of the many follies of Mad Jack Fuller. For a brief intro to Jack, I’ll quote from the walk guidebook we used:

Born in 1757, John Fuller was variously known as ‘Mad Jack’, ‘Honest Jack’ and ‘Hippopotamus’, an irreverent allusion to his 22-stone bulk and waddling gait. The owner of a family fortune derived from shrewd investments made possibly by profitable ventures in the local iron industry in the 16th century, Fuller inherited the ancestral home – Rose Hill at Brightling – at the age of twenty and soon made a mark for himself as an MP. Pugnacious and outspoken at the despatch box, he ruffled numerous Parliamentary feathers, often referring to the Speaker as ‘that insignificant man in a wig’. By 1810, his days as a politician were over and he retired to a life of ease in Sussex, devoting his time and considerable fortune to twin interests in the arts and science, his appetite for the whimsical and absurd leading to the creation of a rash of follies.


The first of Jack’s follies that we’re visiting is his last resting place in the churchyard of the lovely Church of St Thomas Becket.


We enter the churchyard from the west and, as we approach the church, we get our first glimpse of the folly. Yes, that’s a pyramid-shaped tomb, in which Jack was apparently placed sitting upright on a chair, wearing a top hat and clutching a bottle of his favourite claret.


We’ll have a look in the barred entrance but I don’t think we’ll see Mad Jack today.


Here’s another glimpse of the church, from the eastern end, as we walk past and down Brightling’s main road towards the next folly.


At the crossroads, we head over to the kissing gate across the road ...


And from there it’s a stomp along the field boundaries, following a well-worn track. The weather’s perfect for enjoying the far-reaching views over the Sussex countryside.


This is where we’re heading, to the Tower, a 35-foot stone construction.


We go right up to the Tower, have a look inside and around about – nothing much to see. Jack supposedly built this folly so he could see Bodiam Castle, which he had purchased in 1828 to save it from demolition. We can’t actually see Bodiam but maybe the view’s better from the top and, of course, the trees would’ve been shorter in Jack’s day.


Onwards across the field, across the road and then steeply downhill on a track past some farm buildings. There are pheasant breeding pens in the fields so the birds are a common sight hereabouts.


There are two possible routes here, through this woodland to enjoy the trees or along the edge of it. We’ll stick to the side track.


And there’s our third and final folly for today, on a hillside in a distant field.


Unfortunately we can’t get any closer as it’s on private property but my camera lens allows us to see a bit more. It’s a small classically styled temple, probably built in 1810 and possibly the location for some of Mad Jack’s discreet rendezvous with his female friends. What a character he was!

From the temple, we retrace our steps, back up that steep hill and along past the church to the car – a good strenuous stomp to finish off a lovely walk.


If you want to find out more about Mad Jack and his other follies, check out this link
Fancy a walk? Okay, let’s go! We’re in Brightling, a tiny hamlet sitting atop the Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in East Sussex, and we’ve come to discover some of the many follies of Mad Jack Fuller. For a brief intro to Jack, I’ll quote from the walk guidebook we used:

Born in 1757, John Fuller was variously known as ‘Mad Jack’, ‘Honest Jack’ and ‘Hippopotamus’, an irreverent allusion to his 22-stone bulk and waddling gait. The owner of a family fortune derived from shrewd investments made possibly by profitable ventures in the local iron industry in the 16th century, Fuller inherited the ancestral home – Rose Hill at Brightling – at the age of twenty and soon made a mark for himself as an MP. Pugnacious and outspoken at the despatch box, he ruffled numerous Parliamentary feathers, often referring to the Speaker as ‘that insignificant man in a wig’. By 1810, his days as a politician were over and he retired to a life of ease in Sussex, devoting his time and considerable fortune to twin interests in the arts and science, his appetite for the whimsical and absurd leading to the creation of a rash of follies.

The first of Jack’s follies that we’re visiting is his last resting place in the churchyard of the lovely Church of St Thomas Becket.

We enter the churchyard from the west and, as we approach the church, we get our first glimpse of the folly. Yes, that’s a pyramid-shaped tomb, in which Jack was apparently placed sitting upright on a chair, wearing a top hat and clutching a bottle of his favourite claret.

We’ll have a look in the barred entrance but I don’t think we’ll see Mad Jack today.

Here’s another glimpse of the church, from the eastern end, as we walk past and down Brightling’s main road towards the next folly.

At the crossroads, we head over to the kissing gate across the road ...

And from there it’s a stomp along the field boundaries, following a well-worn track. The weather’s perfect for enjoying the far-reaching views over the Sussex countryside.

This is where we’re heading, to the Tower, a 35-foot stone construction.

We go right up to the Tower, have a look inside and around about – nothing much to see. Jack supposedly built this folly so he could see Bodiam Castle, which he had purchased in 1828 to save it from demolition. We can’t actually see Bodiam but maybe the view’s better from the top and, of course, the trees would’ve been shorter in Jack’s day.

Onwards across the field, across the road and then steeply downhill on a track past some farm buildings. There are pheasant breeding pens in the fields so the birds are common sight hereabouts.

There are two possible routes here, through this woodland to enjoy the trees or along the edge of it. We’ll stick to the side track.

And there’s our third and final folly for today, on a hillside in a distant field.

Unfortunately we can’t get any closer as it’s on private property but my camera lens allows us to see a bit more. It’s a small classically styled temple, probably built in 1810 and possibly the location for some of Mad Jack’s discreet rendezvous with his female friends. What a character he was!

From the temple, we retrace our steps, back up that steep hill and along past the church to the car – a good strenuous stomp to finish off a lovely walk.

If you want to find out more about Mad Jack and his other follies, check out this link. http://www.odd-stuff.info/follies/brightling.htm

06 March 2018

East Sussex: post boxes


Here is a small offering of post boxes I spotted during a recent week’s holiday in East Sussex (always looking!).


The oldest was in the tiny hamlet of West Dean, in East Sussex not West, a charming collection of ancient houses nestled in a secluded South Downs valley behind Cuckmere Haven, a location more easily reached on foot than by car, a place that time seems to have forgotten. Amongst its many old treasures – there were also a medieval dovecote and a gorgeous terracotta bird on a rooftop – was this lovely old Victoria wall box, set in a superbly crafted flint stone wall.



To get a photograph of the George V wall box at Birling Gap (below left), I had to brave a howling gale and light, driving rain – that’s post-box dedication for you! If you don’t know Birling Gap, it’s at the eastern end of the mighty Seven Sisters chalk cliffs on England’s south coast. My photo, above, of this impressive landscape was taken in the same howling gale.


On the right, above, is another George V wall box, this one discovered in the small village of Brightling. This box is slightly unusual as it is a Ludlow wall box, one of the wooden – rather than cast iron – boxes made by James Ludlow & Son in Birmingham. The large black-and-white enamel name plate is the giveaway and this box is even more unusual as it doesn’t have the plate that lists location, post box number and mail collection times – there were holes where the plate was originally attached but, as you can see, it looks like someone’s since stuck a couple of stickers on the front instead.

Brightling was interesting for another reason too ... more on that in my next blog post.

04 March 2018

A tale of two East Sussex windmills


It didn’t take long for my friend Jill’s fascination with windmills to infect me, and these photogenic structures now captivate me with their intriguing stories and enchanting architecture. Here are two from my recent visit to East Sussex.


Stone Cross windmill
Built around 1875 and restored to full working order between 1995 and 2000, the Stone Cross windmill is, their signboard claims, ‘one of the finest tower mills ever built in England’. Its statistics are certainly impressive: a 38-foot-high (11.58 metre) five-level brick tower, which is 16 feet 6 inches (5.03 metres) in diameter at its base and 11 feet (3.35 metres) at the curb; and sweeps (the name for the mill’s revolving sails) spanning 64 feet (19.5 metres) and holding 174 shutters (the angles of which control the speed of the sweeps).


The mill still produces flour stone-ground in the traditional way, which sounds delightful and I’m sure would taste delicious but do remember that stone-ground means the flour may well contain tiny pieces of stone, which is one of the reasons why the teeth of people in the past got rapidly ground down. According to the windmill’s somewhat incomplete website, the building also contains a small museum and a cafe, though there are no details given of its opening times.


Windmill Hill windmill
We had driven past this windmill so many times on our way to places elsewhere but, as there are not a lot of spots to park, we’d never stopped ... until, one day in mid February, on the way back from Rye Harbour, Jill managed to squeeze us in to the back end of a bus stop for a few minutes. Unfortunately, the view from the roadside is marred by the power lines but we did sneak up a driveway for a slightly better view of the side of this mill.


There had been a previous windmill on this site – proving just how well this high point catches the breezes – but it was demolished prior to the construction, in around 1814, of the mill we see today. This is a post mill, one of the earliest types of windmill, which I now know means ‘the whole body of the mill that houses the machinery is mounted on a single vertical post, around which it can be turned to bring the sails into the wind’ (as opposed to the Stone Cross tower mill, where only the cap, not the whole body of the mill, is rotated).


Using one pair of French Burr stones and another of Derbyshire Peak stones, this mill also processed corn in to flour. Like the Stone Cross building, the Windmill Hill mill has undergone extensive restoration in recent years, through the work of a charitable trust and the tireless efforts of a multitude of volunteers. (You can read more on their website here.) I love that so many people are so passionate about preserving these remnants of Britain’s industrial and cultural heritage so that both the present and future generations can admire and enjoy them.



01 March 2018

Beautiful Bodiam



We had a cracking blue-sky day for our visit to Bodiam in East Sussex, and the castle, surrounded by its moat, looked picture-postcard-perfect!


The lord of the manor was soldier and knight, Sir Edward Dallingridge (or Dalyngrigge) (c.1346 – 1393), who had the castle constructed around 1385, in theory as a defence against local rebellion and possible invasion by the French but probably also a statement piece: ‘Look at how rich and powerful I am!’ As a power statement it certainly works.


And I imagine you would feel quite secure in a place like this, regardless of who was trying to attack. The original approach bridge over the moat was to the side, ensuring invaders made easy targets for the castle’s archers; the portcullis was so sturdy that parts of it still survive; and there are murder holes above the entrance porticos, meaning residents could pour hot tar and boiling oil on the uninvited.


Sir Edward gained the manor of Bodiam by marriage. Having accumulated wealth and reputation through fighting as a mercenary in France, he returned to England and wedded the heiress to Bodiam, Elizabeth Wardeux (or Wardedieu).

Dallingridge subsequently served as the equivalent of Member of Parliament for the local area, was made responsible for fortifying various areas of coastal Sussex, and became the most influential member of the local gentry.


The castle’s interior was likely dismantled during the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) but you can still get an idea of the opulence enjoyed by Sir Edward and Lady Elizabeth, though I don’t think National Trust have done a very good job with their displays and storyboards, especially compared to other castles I have visited (see the magnificent Caerphilly here and here). The exhibition in the nearby pavillion was also undergoing refurbishment so I felt a reduction in the entrance fee would have been appropriate under the circumstances For the stiff-kneed also, a warning, the spiral staircases were steep, but the views from the towers and battlements were worth the effort.


All in all, a stunning property: the type of building every child imagines when they draw their first castles, and a dream for photographers, if you go right on opening time, to avoid the crowds. I’d love to see it again shrouded in brooding winter mist and a blanket of snow, or with autumn colour in its stately trees.



11 February 2018

Dorset: post boxes


My Christmas holiday host is well trained – she knows my predilection for old-looking post boxes and is happy to (safely) slam on the brakes when she spots one, or I yell “post box” in her ear. These are a few we spotted as we gadded about the highways and country lanes of Dorset (and the lucky last is from a hop over the border to Somerset).

First up (below left) is this slightly-the-worse-for-wear Edward VII box (DT2 73) that was attached to a post by the side of the road near the little hamlet of Up Sydling, a rather out-of-the-way place to be but we were chasing up my friend’s ancestors’ habitations.


In a much better state of repair and looking very photogenic in its old stone wall, was this lovely old Victoria wall box (DT2 52) (above right, and below) in the historic town of Cerne Abbas.


In the wall of a house in Sherborne, we found this rather unusual Victoria wall box (DT9 6). Named after its makers, James Ludlow & Son of Birmingham, it’s called a Ludlow wall box, and, unlike most old post boxes, which were traditionally made of cast iron, the Ludlows’ were made of wood, though they did usually have an enamel name plate on the front and a thin sheet of steel covering the door.


Moving forward in time, we found this George V wall box (DT9 37) (below left) conveniently positioned underneath the town’s notice board in a small village with the intriguing name of Ryme Intrinseca. And, below right, here’s another from Cerne Abbas, a George VI pillar box (DT2 98), also conveniently situated, in the town's main street.


This last (DT9 67) is the intruder from Milborne Port in Somerset and a relatively modern wall box from the reign of Elizabeth II. It looked freshly painted, in that wonderfully vibrant Post Office red that everyone recognises.



04 February 2018

Church of St Mary Magdalene, Barwick

St Mary Magdalene’s is a small church with a big history. Built of the local Ham stone, the main body of the church dates from the 1200s, while the chancel is a 19th century rebuild that incorporated earlier building fragments.


Barwick doesn’t get a mention in the Domesday Survey but, in 1228, Henry III granted the locals the right to hold a fair here and, in 1231, granted the right to hold a market at the local manor to William de Cantilupe, who held the local estate. St Mary Magdalene's was presumably founded around the same time and was originally a chapel of ease, providing a welcome resting place for travellers along the busy London to Exeter road.



Inside, the church has some lovely old Oak furnishings – the wonderful Jacobean carved panels on the pew ends caught my eye – and a very impressive, colourfully decorated organ. Though I doubt they were particularly old, the symmetric lines and patterns of the old floor tiles were lovely, as were the clean simple lines of the stained glass windows.



The building’s heritage value is recognised in its Grade II listing but the building is in need of major restoration work. According to the Historic England website, ‘The tower roof is in poor condition, the bell frame needs work undertaken and the nave and aisle roofs are also in poor condition.’ Because of this, the church has been placed on the Heritage at Risk Register, yet the congregation was unsuccessful in its 2017 application for a Listed Places of Worship Roof Repairs Grant. I hope the repair money is found soon as this wonderful old parish church is definitely worth saving.