Wildfire Through Staffordshire – The Bilston Cholera Epidemic

Wildfire Through Staffordshire – Where Are the Graves is the first of a series of films presenting the work of Ian Henery, Walsall Poet Laureate.

The Bilston Cholera Epidemic had been covered in the narrative of the book, Wildfire Through Staffordshire with an accompanying poem. Ian had also written an article on the subject, with accompanying photographs of Sandfields Pumping Station for the Black Country Bugle newspaper, when he was asked by David Moore to write a poem to celebrate the lives of the people who died in the cholera epidemics of the mid ninetieth century.

These films are inspired by the book that presents Osborne’s Map of the Grand Junction Railway. The book contains many thought provoking poems have been specially created by Ian, adding a new dimension to Osborne’s observations.

Osborne’s Map of the Grand Junction Railway was the first of an increasing number of maps, guides and handbooks, which were produced as new railways opened across the country.

All were eager to expound the virtues of their great railways, and the marvellous feats of the Victorian engineers. A similar publication, Bradshaw’s guide is the subject of a recent television series; however it was in fact a set of timetables, and did not contain any tourist information as did Osborne’s Map. The Bradshaw’s Handbooks for tourists in Great Britain and Ireland was not actually published until 1860 and were a rival publication to Osborne’s original Railway guides.

The map showing the route of the Grand Junction Railway in this version of Osborne’s guide, has been completely and painstakingly re-constructed and restored by Mapseeker Publishing in full colour over a period of nearly three months. The work contains many attractive engravings, contemporary to the period, showcasing the line and surroundings areas, in splendid detail. This guide is keen to illustrate the achievements of the Victorian engineers and the Grand Junction Railway company, from the unadulterated splendour of the first class coach, to the ten arch viaduct bridging the London line. This is indeed the ultimate armchair guide.


Mapseekers Archive Publishing;

David Moore – Historian, filmmaker, photographer

Sandfields Pumping Station;

Ian Henery;

Wildfire Through Staffordshire;

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Making time for recycling

Some people think that recycling is a new idea, but in fact it has been around for years. Before the days of cheap mass produced products, things were made by the hand of the skilled craftsperson. Items were crafted with care, and time and creativity were given to each piece. It was built to do the job well and it was built to last.

Back then, things were built and sold to serve a purpose and if in the unfortunate event something did break, we did not throw it away, we fixed it. If we could not mend it, we recycled it into something else just as useful.

This modern term ‘in built obsolescence’ is really a method of manufacturing created out of mass consumerism, to fuel mass consumerism.

To see one of the finest examples of recycling, we must visit the village Tirley in Gloucestershire, and the work of Hubert john Carter.


Carter was a master wheelwright by trade, who with his business partner George Creese, ran Tirley Wheelwrights. Interestingly enough by itself, when it closed the shed and contents were dismantled and taken to Gloucester Folk Museum, where it can be seen today.

Carter was a skilled carpenter, village blacksmith, handyman, sign-writer and musician; he had made a violin using only very basic hand tools and was also known to have a keen interest in clocks. When the opportunity came to built a clock for the church of St. Michael and All Angels, Carter said he would ‘give it a go’.


He immediately set to work on his hundred year old lathe that he inherited from his great-uncle, and plainly a keen recycler long before the term was coined, Carter used whatever was available, along with his ingenious creativity.

Gate latches became the hands, and the face was built from the end of a cider barrel. The clock mechanism was built from, among other things, a pistol barrel, a spade, the remains of a beam drill, components from a penny farthing bicycle, bits from a lawnmower, a chaff-cutter, a roasting jack, a bean drill, a separator, a winnowing machine, a bicycle pedal, the brake rods of a cycle, a scythe, a cannon ball, a pistol barrel and old farmyard weights.


The pendulum was a skittle ball. The frame had once been the gateposts and fence from in front the Haw Bridge Inn near the River Severn. Apparently Carter had erected this fence on a previous occasion to stop drunken patrons falling in the river.

The spring was taken from a wind-up gramophone, and the clock had a set of chimes.
Apparently somewhere within the clock, performing an extremely important timekeeping duty was the door knocker from the village pub.


The fascinating timepiece made by John Carter just after the First World War was dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant George Fowler, a local farmer’s son who was killed in conflict.

Carter looked after the clock in his own ‘special’ way; he wound it up everyday and if it broke, he simply fixed it. This he continued to do right up until his death at the age of 81 in 1945. The clock continued to work up until the late 80’s, but without the magic hand of Carter, fell into disuse.


Fortunately a horologist from Birmingham came to visit Tirley and managed to coax the mechanism back to life for a time. However without regular attention the clock proved temperamental, and so in our modern times of efficiency and reliability fell victim to the ravages of Health and Safety. Apparently people were worried that the skittle ball pendulum would fly off and bowl out the bell ringers and half the congregation.

A very modern, up to date, newly fangled all singing, all dancing electric clock mechanism was installed to turn the hands. The new mechanism promised to save the church an absolute fortune in labour, running and maintenance costs; heralding in a new era of enlightenment to the realms of modern time keeping.


Within the space of a couple of years, the new modern electric mechanism did as expected, and promptly obliged the world with a demonstration of ‘in built obsolescence’….

Tirley John Carter

John Carters grave at Tirley Church Yard


John Carter’s grave lies just in front of the church, just below his clock, I wonder what he would think of this?

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David Hey – Obituary

Another sad loss today. David Hey may not have been a film or a pop super star, but he in his own way made a significant impact on how we see our family history.

David Hey

David Hey


Traditionally academic historians tend to be less focused on unimpressive patriotic narratives: they argue that they very often tend to glorify the people or individuals and so therefore define genealogy and family history as amateur.

But see it my way, what does researching vital information from primary sources actually achieve? It gives us a chronological timeline of dates relating to births, marriage and finally the deaths of an individual.

And it gets worse, some academic historians prefer to see stories from the past supported and validated by external sources and therefore will relegate events prior to written history: ‘prehistory’. The effect of this is that stories common to particular cultures, social backgrounds or from people who did not have a written history: where it could be argued are the majority of the population, whose stories and lives are not supported by external sources.

Therefore, their pasts could be considered as folk law or legend, effectively dismissing the pasts of the people who walked this earth before us. You can see why I was booted of the history course at school now!

David Hey introduced the concept of family history where we acutely contextualise the past and to venture beyond the names on their family trees to find out more about the places and times in which their ancestors lived. Suddenly people were give a lens, a device that can understand the voices that are not heard, the voices who want to speak: the very same voices that allow ordinary people to make history, and to see the past and gain an understanding into how our ancestors lived.

Therefore, by understanding our family past, we can define ourselves, our identity and our place in this world.

Rest in peace David Hey….

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Telling stories – the one that got away

In 1975 my brother and I took a holiday in Cornwall. Not for a week on the beach at Newquay like most of the other men of our age, instead we elected to look at and photograph the legacy of the Cornish Tin Mining era. We were into the hip cliché Industrial Archaeology.

John Bolt.jpg

My brother had done the background planning, he had read a lot about Cornish mining, and was able to recognise most of the iconic engine houses in and around Camborne and Redruth. I was the up and coming budget photographer. To develop and print a roll of 36 exposure colour film in those days’ cost around £5.50; a week’s wages for me as a construction apprentice was £17.00.

We had a tent and a sleeping bag each, no camp bed or mat, and we spent an incredible week living on fish and chips. I was shooting in black and white, Ilford FP4, and would develop the films when home in our mom’s bathroom. She loved us to death, honestly.

Before we even set up camp, we came across East Pool and Agar Mine at Taylors shaft. In those days you bought a ticket at East Pool Whim that gave entrance to the Cornish Engine house at Taylors shaft.

It was there we met John Bolt, a retired Cornish miner – a shaftsman. John was working as a volunteer for the National Trust, and would open the engine house on a daily basis. John seemed at first a little bit tired of the visitors. Static Cornish Beam engines and retired Cornish miners don’t say a lot to the casual visitor, they invite you to bring something to the party first, it’s a test.

However we did bring something to the party, out thirst for knowledge, the need to know about an industry that shaped the face of the country, we passed the test. The stories started and did not stop for a week.

John had worked in the Cornish Tin Mines all his life, when he retired he ran a chicken farm nearby, but Johns identity was that of a Cornish tin miner. Over the week in Cornwall, we would pop in and see john every day, where he would tell us remarkable stories of his life underground, right up until the mine eventually changed over to electric pumps in 1954.
Taylors Shaft030

John was a shaftsman who maintained the Tailors pumping shaft at East Pool mine, all 1,700 feet depth to the sump at the bottom. He told us at that on occasions, he had also driven the 90” Cornish beam engine, and could have been one of the last people to see it working. The normal Cornish beam engine driver was a young chap who can been seen at work on a BP archive film, John knew him well.

John told us all about the layout of the pump rods, plunger and lift pumps, clack valves and the 5 other underground balance beams. It would take him an hour or so to climb up the ladders to the surface. The Cornish engine has a beam weighing around 52 tons, yet when the command to ‘blow poles’ was given, the driver “could move that beam a quarter of an inch” John would tell us.

John told me the story of a miner who had become trapped by his hand, and after couple of days still could not be freed. A doctor was bought down the mine, to anesthetized the guy. As John held him steady the doctor cut his hand off; John said “in about three seconds”. John said the guy was back at work a week or so later, and happened to come across his own hand after some blasting. The guy just casually picked up the hand, looked at it and said “look, a perfectly good hand, nowt wrong with it”. The guy put the hand in his pocket and took it home with him.

Taylors Shaft007

I made a further visit to East Pool and Agar mine the following year, and again was entertained by John Bolt. He was a guy I thought would be around forever, so in 1977 I did another trip to Cornwall, only to find john green Reliant car was not outside the engine house.

I enquired inside to a well-spoken BBC accented middle aged gentleman, who casualty informed me John had died in his sleep over the Christmas Holiday. As you can imagine, I was gutted. My feeling arose not only from the news of John death, but because of this loss was presented to me by this other person as just the passing of another doddery old man. He clearly stereotyped John as someone well past their sell by date who had passed away, and had made way for a new up and coming intellectual who was really going to give the visitor experience a proper job well done.

He was not in the same race. He did not have the capacity to see that the world had lost a giant of a man whose depth of practical hands on knowledge reached back several generations and bought the past alive.

John’s name, along with a few others, are etched into the glass window on the first floor of the engine house, the one overlooking the entrance door. John’s name is right in the place he loved to be, in a Cornish tin mine engine house entertaining the visitors with his remarkable stories…. Well only the ones who were able to pass his special test.

I wish I had made a tape recording of John stories, but the retrostctoscope has yet to be invented, so now, I am the keeper of John memories, and need to tell the stories myself…. I must devise a test.

You can tell me facts and I will learn, you can tell me the truth and I will believe you, but if you tell me a story it will remain in my heart forever.


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The Great Man Theory of History

I was thrown off the history CSE at school for not showing sufficient interest. If I take a Stoic view of myself, the history teacher was right, I had no interest in the Great Man theory of history.

The Great Man theory of history is a 19th-century idea according to which history can be largely explained by the impact of “great men”, or heroes: highly influential individuals who, due to either their personal charisma, intelligence, wisdom, or political skill utilized their power in a way that had a decisive historical impact.

To me, this was not how the past was, or how the world around me worked; a liner progression of dates in time and a requirement to remember them was not how I saw the world. Ok, as an individual with a learning disability I apparently do see the world slightly differently from the norm, or so I am told…. or so some would like me to believe….who is norm anyway….

To me, I was just not interested in remembering a sequence of dates and a liner past, it is not logical. Some say that if you are interested, you will make it happen, and if not, you will make an excuse. A contrived past is my excuse because out there when you look, and look again there is this vast visual, three dimensional past that tells remarkable stories of people just like you and I, you just have to look for it, and immerse yourself in it.

This past tells us of their lives, their loves and their values, and all that things that go to make us human. Everyday people do remarkable things, you only have to take the time to look. I look, I look a lot. I love seeing people at work; their skills, their pride, their sense of identity. Seeing people doing their work changes my emotional state so much, It sometimes fills me with so much joy and interest, that I feel like I’m going to bust like a balloon.

So to hell with the great man theory, go and watch some everyday people at work…..

Barry Cant Arf Weld from shaun bloodworth on Vimeo.

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A Dress

Deconstructing the past.

Today Linda give us a delightful insight into how history propagates when you attempt to explore the past. It is this side of history that holds my fascination; the moment you look back in time and ask a question, the more the past opens up and comes right back at you with more and more questions that take you on a journey not only backwards in time, but also in different directions. Then you realise that the past is o not a linear chain of events arranged by date, but a transient three dimensional arena that can pull you off on a journey of discovery.

Click through to


I found this dress in an antique shop in Leominster:

dress-1-for-blog      dress-2-for-blog

I noticed it, went away and had a cup of coffee, then went back and bought it. I’d been thinking about Minnie and Dewsbury of course. Did she wear a dress like this? What was it like to wear it? Who would have made her dresses? How were they made? It’s quite damaged, and I had an idea that I could deconstruct it, but I’m having second thoughts about that now. I don’t think I can bring myself to take apart an item which has already survived such a long time.

I’m not finding it easy to date, as I’m by no means an expert on Victorian fashion. It has machine stitching in it, so that places it after 1850.

I have a book Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A photographic Survey by Alison Gersheim. From the dated photographs in…

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Pens, paper, scissors… It’s so easy to take these everyday objects for granted

This has to be one of the best short films I have seen for sometime now. It captures something very special, and something that not everyone can see, tacit knowledge.

Just watch Cliff’s hands, and how he handles the scissors; not everyone will see, certainly those who have worked with their hands will….

This to me is very special, people with tacit knowledge are the keepers of our past, our heritage, our culture and identity. It gives me great pride to see this in my lifetime, and hope that these special skills will be passed down to others, for their future as a gift from our past.

Now, every time I watch this film, I feel the need to buy more scissors, can’t be bad.


The Putter from shaun bloodworth on Vimeo.

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