A Postcard From The Past National Mills Weekend

Don’t forget that National Mills Weekend is starting today. Water and windmills are quite magical places and have been a part of our landscape for hundreds of years. Not only are they places of peaceful contemplation, they are the guardians of our past.

Holding memories deep within their foundations, telling stories of everyday people, the way they lived, worked and their lives. There are stories that enrich our lives….

….as we are creatures of memory. We cannot have a future idea unless we access a memory of the past….

#365daysofdogwalking #fridayfeeling #daysout

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Place Attachment

Landscape enlarges conciseness, we form place attachment so quickly, we don’t need to try. Place attachment is the way we relate, interact, experience and understand our relationship with our environment, our memory and our past.

Wetton Mill Feb 19_0367.jpg

Wetton Mill is where I stood in the landscape and experienced my first changed state of mind….

…. I let go with go without noticing and realised a whole new world….

Now I know, I had never lived until this day….

….I cannot go back.

 

20190218_141256566_iOS

 

Now this must be the sweetest place
From here to heaven’s end;
The field is white and flowering lace,
The birches leap and bend

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Significant Date

Friday 26th October 2018 marks the 160th anniversary of the first water to be pumped from Sandfields Pumping Station, Lichfield to the industrial Black Country in the industrial Midlands.

Sandfields Etchv1

The nineteenth century witnessed significant changes to the landscape. With the industrial revolution driving the economy, urbanisation of the industrial towns reached an unprecedented level that was not equalled or surpassed in any other European country until the mid-1950’s. The existing water supplies could not meet the demands of the people and sewage disposal systems were woefully inadequate or even none existent.

Infrastructure could not support the vast growth in the population or could the technology deal with it’s needs. People were drinking water from the canals in desperation. Malnourishment, ineffective sanitation and a lack of clean water made the area susceptible to disease and ill health. Then in 1832 a new and deadly disease arrived.

V0010484 A dead victim of cholera at Sunderland in 1832. Coloured lit

Cholera decimated the Black Country, within six weeks over 2,500 people were dead. Known as a ‘filth death’ the victims died in utter squalor and agony. With no known cause or no known cure panic and terror ensured. The cemeteries were overwhelmed, and a shortage of coffins added to the misery of body’s piling up in the streets. Significant numbers of people were buried in mass graves or cholera pits with no epitaph or recognition of their lives.

Cholera became the regular unwelcome visitor to the industrial towns and cities. It would take back with it people from all walks of life. No one was safe from the insidious tentacles that would snatch a family member or two when their attention was momentarily distracted. Their voices drowned in a sea of squalor, despair and anguish.

Fortunately, human ingenuity prevailed. Victorian culture bought with it a curiosity and challenge to the acceptance of things happen due to the will of god. Critical thinkers started to challenge conventional wisdom and ask profound questions that would dig well beneath accepted cause and effect. Questions that would enhance our understanding of the world we live in…. the origin of our species…. the inner working of the human body…

John_Snow

Scientists like John Snow questioned and challenged the well-established miasma theory of diseases by using oral study and statistical analysis of epidemics. His work gave birth to the science of epidemiology and proved a link between water and cholera. This opened the discussion on how overcome the technical challenges of moving water from a city with an abundance to an area of water shortages 11 miles away and 400 higher. Engineers like John McClean and Francis Croughton Stileman not only found solutions, they also put up their own money to build a scheme to deliver it.

John McClean.jpg

The technical challenges of moving the vast quantities of water required were to say at least very challenging. It would need the collaborative working of a team of people to build two vast impounding reservoirs, a ¾ mile long tunnel, an engine house for a giant of an engine that would lift the water 400 feet high and then push it along an 11-mile-long pipeline to a further impounding reservoir in Moat End Walsall. At the time, it was one of the largest water infrastructure projects built.

As with all project that stretch the mind and imagination, technical challenges had to be resolved on route. But resolve them they did. Bringing in the collective minds and cooperation of others eventually bought the scheme to a conclusion, on 26 September 1858 the first clean water was pumped from the now picturesque reservoirs of Lichfield to the industrial towns of the Black Country.

lichfield-cathedral

Clean water bought about significant social and economic benefits to the community. Within a few years, cholera was a thing of the past in the UK, and the average life expectancy had been extended by twenty years. The establishment of organised water supplies gave legitimacy to and underpinned the principals of public health, bringing wellbeing to many. It paved the way for the NHS.

So, on this significant date of 26 September 2018 let us take a moment to look back at the objects and people from the past and learn from them so that we may pave a way to our future.

Sandfields Pumping Station played a key part in these remarkable events. Deep within its foundations it holds the stories of the scientific and medical discoveries of the past. It shows us the remarkable feats of Victorian water engineering, and how engineering technology overcame the challenges of bringing life preserving water to communities. It records in depth and detail the skills and labour of the everyday people who sweated on the building sites, the tunnels and boiler rooms to build and maintain in perfect working order this giant of a machine. These endeavours give very simple message. “Some people have done well for themselves, but the most admired people of this world are those who do well for others”.

Its sad that on this special date our remarkable waterworks and its giant engine that gave so much, is still at risk of permeant loss. Not because of willingness or because of money, but because a small number of individuals don’t care about it. They do not wish to see the remarkable story that this building tells, and why it is important. They do not wish to see that there is anything we can learn from our past, that would help them do well for others. It is purely a commercial decision.

The Lichfield Waterworks Trust will with continue with its best endeavours to tell the story of this building and its giant of an engine. The trust will continue to research and tell the stories of the people who made it happen.

Sandfileds Staff 1893.JPG

The trust will also continue to research and tell the stories of the people who died in the dreadful cholera epidemics of the mid nineteenth century so that this building can hold their stories too and give them voice. We do this because when these stories are told, they will add to and enhance our understanding of our own lives, they will become our ‘Voices from the Past’.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Postcard From the Past – Cheddleton Flint Mill

Cheddleton Flint Mill_0020-1

Cheddleton Flint Mill is a water mill situated in the village of Cheddleton, Staffordshire, in the picturesque Churnet Valley. With the fast-flowing river Churnet on one side and the Cauldon Canal on the other. It is an iconic group of building dating from the period of the industrial revolution.

The south mill was originally a corn mill, but with the addition of the north mill built specifically to grind flint, the South Mill was also converted to grind flint too. The mill exploited the newly built Caladon canal, making the transportation of heavy goods to the nearby Potteries bring a welcome longevity to the site.

There are two breast-shot water wheels powered by the River Churnet: the southern wheel is 20 feet 5 inches (6.2 metres) in diameter; the northern wheel is 22 feet (6.7 metres) in diameter. There are also calcining kilns and a drying kiln. The button hole launders are a feature often seen in Cornish china clay works, very at home in Staffordshire. The mill continued in use until 1963 and is still in working order.

Since 1967 the site has been restored and maintained as a museum by the Cheddleton Flint Mill Industrial Heritage Trust. The site is free to visit, but donations are always welcome.

It is a truly remarkable piece of industrial heritage that stands head and shoulders above any institutional museum. The site is a testament to the unselfish endeavours of the volunteers, who keep this site in a state of preservation that displays our industrial heritage at its best.

A true peoples museum; an honest to goodness hands on must-see place. There are no uniformed security guards, sitting like vultures waiting to leap into the back of the casual transgressor of the ivory tower museum rule book.

As a visitor you have the freedom to look, experience and engage with the past. The floors are uneven, the stairs are steep, and the river is deep, but we already know how to take care, and how to stay safe. The lack of ‘do not touch’ signs, are in their own way a recognition of what we already know: how to treat our industrial heritage with care and love. We don’t need reminding.

With all the silly nonsense set to one side, we are free to explore, learn, and to see a world as it looked a hundred years ago. This is a rare combination of landscape and objects in a setting that allows us to engage with the minds people who lived before us. With an uncluttered mind, free from the institutionalised distractions, we can walk with them and let them tell their stories in unspoken words and transfer their tacit knowledge without language into a useable past. This place is well worthy of a generous donation. It is a preserved past that is priceless.

After all we are creatures of memory. We cannot have a future idea unless we access a memory of the past.

Posted in landscape, local history, Nostalgia, objects, public history | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Written Word, Myths and Misconceptions

The written word, it’s the instrument we all play. It’s incredibly powerful, some say mightier than the sword. It can start a war, tell you I love you or can lead you to believe what someone wants you to think.

In history, words will tell us a story of the past that not necessarily happened, but what someone want you to think what happened, or how we wished what had happened. Public History will ask us to look at the past from below, and to gain our sense of the past though objects.

Objects can tell remarkable stories about the past. While the written word will enhance our knowledge, studying an object will enhance our understanding.

 

 

 

 

Posted in public history | Tagged | Leave a comment

Shepperdine – The Tin Tabernacle

St Mary’s Church, a small missionary church adjacent to Manor Farm in Nupdown Road, is a rare example of a tin tabernacle.

Tin tabernacles were designed as temporary structures to be replaced by more permanent churches but St Mary’s has remained as part of its community and still hosts church services once a month.

Dating from 1914, it is an early example of this kind of prefabricated church and is particularly unusual for having retained so much of its original detailing with the only noticeable updates being the windows

Two and a half miles distance from St Arilda’s Church in Oldbury, but a million miles away from the minister’s ‘private’ parking space on the public road and the no dogs in churchyard (on or off the lead) signs. I am sure I was force fed something like “we are all equal in the eyes of….” somewhere in a past life.

It’s a nostalgic gem lovable by its simplicity, honesty accessibility. Open to all, there is a sense of trust, timelessness and peace when you walk into this building.

So pleased to see that the budding Barry Bucknell’s of this world did not get chance to lay their creative hand of this place.

It’s not been messed about with, so retains an archive of its own past. With it goes the essence of the people who have known this place and love it.

The stained and varnished match boarding, Bakelite switches and cotton wound cables with round pic plug tops, are almost convenient pegs to hand the past on.

Sound artist David Howell has been using ambient sounds he records on site in the landscape and excerpts from the oral histories and creating beautiful evocative sound postcards from A Forgotten Landscape

Listen to some of David Work here, including sounds from the Tin Tabernacle.

 

Posted in public history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Grid Project – In the Footsteps of Phyllis…

I have been taking part in the Birmingham Photographic Grid Project 2017. This year the theme is In the Footsteps of Phyllis Nicklin. Phyllis needs no introduction you folks, we know and love her for the amazing archive of photographs she left us.

Phyllis Nicklin was a lecturer at the University of Birmingham who died in November 1969 while still in office. She left a collection of photographs taken in the 50’s and 60’s showing social housing and working places in Birmingham.

Phyllis Nicklin was a mysterious person, very little was known about her personal life. Members of the Birmingham History forum have long appreciated the valuable legacy of social change she left us and are now campaigning to have a blue plaque erected at the place of her birth.

She left a remarkable legacy in her photographic collection that recorded the social housing and working conditions of everyday people. While she was employed by the university, her photographic collection has become a direct benefit not only to the student who were taught by Phyllis, but to the community as a whole.

Her collection has engaged a whole community in a way that has increased our knowledge, and given us a new insight into the past lives, and the living and working conditions of older generations. The collection of images has made history accessible to everyone and therefore the benefits her short and almost invisible life have bought are in my opinion are immeasurable and priceless.

The aim of this yeas Grid Project is to retake all of her photos in and around Birmingham, so that we can see the changes made of the passing years. Details of the project, and her photos can be seem on Dave Allen’s website here.

There will also be an exhibition and a short run hardback book once the project is completed at the end of this year. I understand that 2018 would have been the year of her 100th birthday.

It was fascinating waking in the footsteps of Phyllis today, having to look closely at the landscape and study it closely to work out just where she stood all those years ago. Today I felt like I was engaging with a long dead person from the past, and am now able to see the world though the mind of someone who walked before me.

It is quite sad that we know very little about the life of Phyllis, as her images tell a remarkable story about the town I love. Maybe that’s just how she wanted it to be, life is not always about doing alright for your self, its about doing alright for others.

I would like to share with you the then and new images from the four locations I have chosen to take.

Phyllis Nicklin images courtesy of University of Birmingham

Tyseley Engine Sheds (1907) North Warwickshire Line, Warwick Road near Reddings Lane c1968

TYS0009

7373-Tyseley-Engine-Sheds-(1907)-David-Moore

Tyseley, BXL Factory, Redfern Road (view towards Kings Road) 1968

TYS00053513-Tyseley,-BXL-Factory,-Redfern-Road-(view-towards-Kings-Road)-David-Moore

Tyseley, James Road, off Kings Road 1968

TYS00037371-Tyseley,-James-Road,-off-Kings-Road-David-Moore

Tyseley, Hay Hall, Redfern Road 1968

TYS00103512-Tyseley,-Hay-Hall,-Redfern-Road-David-Moore

Today, standing in the footsteps of Phyllis does not give us such a clear view of Tyseley Hall, so moving about 15 feet to the right allows us to see the hall in all its glory.

IMG_5091

Posted in Collections, local history, Nostalgia, photographs, public history | Leave a comment