Day Out? – Enjoy our Industrial Heritage

At a loose end this weekend? Got that #Friday feeling?

Get yourself down to Leawood Pump House and High Peak Junction on the Cronford Canal. Take a train ride from Whasandwell to Cromford and walk back along one of the most beautiful places full of industrial heritage

A postcard from the past – Leawood Pump House from David Moore on Vimeo.

Industrial Heritage does not have to be an abandoned factory, or an oily workshop, quite often it is a thing of beauty, you only have to look, then look again.

This is industrial heritage that speaks to us, it’s a way of confronting the past in an immediate way and allows you to immerse yourself in it. It brings together the concept that that heritage alone cannot do and confronts you in the multi-sensory way in which we experience place. 

Leawood Pump House and High Peak Junction is must see place. Nestled down in the Derwent Valley, the railway junction with the canal is one of the country’s earliest railways and was a hub of transport activity.

Visiting the Derwent Valley is like standing in the historical house. Each room has a theme. Each theme has a feeling and each feeling engages your mind with the past. You can set yourself free and move from room to room, experiencing a different time and place as you explore the historic house.

Leawood Pump House was built in 1849 to pump water from the River Derwent to top up the Cromford Canal.

The pump house is now well over 150 years old but remains in pristine working condition thanks to the sterling work of the Middleton Top and Leawood Pump Volunteer Group. Leawood Pump House is open and operated on steam regally throughout the year.

Spending a few moments just watching the beam engine working, quietly, the gentle hiss of steam, the clicks and clunks of the valve gear. You can step back in time and immerse yourself in nostalgia, and somehow feel differently about history.

derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/countryside/countryside_sites/visitor_centres/high_peak_junction/default.asp

middleton-leawood.org.uk/

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The power of Place

Place attachment

I have an incredible attachment to place; but what is place attachment, and what is this to do with history?

  • How do we relate to it?
  • Interact with it?
  • Experience it?
  • Understand place?

How (if at all) is the relationship we develop with place unique by comparison to other physical objects?

Two of the reasons that place is so powerful is that it is simultaneously experienced through all of the senses, and also experienced through the spatial dimension. Research on perception has shown the link between the engagement of several senses and orientation or path finding. Children, for example, identify with place from ages 2-3.

Environmental psychologists argue that as a psychological process ‘place attachment’ is similar to an infant’s attachment to parental figures. They also suggest that place attachment can develop social dimensions, as individuals develop ties to community, own land, and participate in the public life of a community.

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Owing to the spatial and multi-sensory way in which we experience ‘place’, it seems that it can instantly transport us back in time and space. I have experience this on several occasion. The smell of certain plants or trees can transport us back in time to grandma’s garden. Similarly, if we go to a ‘place’ we often find that memories otherwise forgotten come flooding back. The immersion of ‘place’ acts as a trigger – a powerful mnemonic device. I have deliberately used this technique when conducting oral interviews. Because there is a strong association between place and memory the mnemonic effect often brings memories flooding back.

Places remain a part of us long after we stop being a part of them, in fact we don’t even have to have to actually have a personal experience of a place to have an attachment to it. Why, what does this mean?

Even simple intellectual immersion can produce a sense of place attachment. Through our fascination with genealogy, for example, we can come to know our ‘ancestral villages’ in infinite detail, and they can thus hold a special place for us, even though we have no physical attachment to them. My wife is currently researching Dewsbury Victorian Families, and has developed a strong pace attachment, despite the fact she has never lived or even visited this area prior to the commencement of her research. Her knowledge of Dewsbury is so detailed that she can navigate the town and navigate them quite successfully through imagination alone.

I have also experienced this with my older brother when visiting Cornwall and the tin mines.

Botalock019.jpg

An individual’s sense of place is both a biological response to the physical environment, and a cultural creation, with the strongest attachments being to those places that are critical to our wellbeing. So therefore, when it comes to the strength of these attachments, proximity need not be a consideration, we don’t have to have an actual history with these places.

While place is always hybrid, our attachment to it is often fixed. Individuals ‘experience’ a given place in uniquely ways, even if they are experiencing it from the same time and space location. So as historical ‘documents’ why are places and buildings useful or important?

Principally because of the spatial dimension. Because of the multi-dimensional interaction, we have with them, they can tell us things that documents don’t and quite often never do.

For example, we can ‘see’ the lay of the land; we can ‘experience’ how difficult the collection of water, or how rough the road; we can ‘feel’ how cold it was in winter, etc. I can often see the signs of industrial activity in the landscape that other cannot.

This is the idea that places ‘speak to us’ – please immersion. Thus place is seen as bringing additional dimensions to our understanding of past events for example, going on visits to WWII battle fields can help our understanding of events.

The power of place can also act as a mnemonic device, so victims going back to place can remember more, experience also traumatic for same ‘immersive’ reasons. Written history demarcates the past from the present, but buildings and places bridge both simultaneously.

Historic ‘Places’

Place attachment is also a core factor in the perceived value of ‘historic places’; the ability to connect with both the built and natural environment intertwined in cultural landscapes is the key. Heritage does not stand alone, it is an idealism, a concept and therefore is not sufficient.

From a heritage perspective, when we visit them, we feel that they somehow speak to us, that through visiting them we confront the past in a tangible, immediate way. In part this again is because of the multi-sensory way in which we experience place, and in part because of the emotional and intellectual weight we give to the tangible fragments of history.

Not necessarily logical or tangibility that is important. As Robin Hood Historian J. C. Holt, for example notes, the myths and stories of Robin Hood now form not only a significant part of Nottingham and the surrounding shires’ history and identity, but have also contributed to the preservation of Sherwood forest.

As a society, why do we preserve historic places (particularly those seen to be of national, regional, or community significance)?

  • tell us stories about past events and people felt to be important;
  • record technological/architectural change;
  • reflect cultural shifts;
  • beauty;
  • profit (including tourism).

As the Gentry and Hayden chapters hopefully highlighted, however, the ‘historical’ is but one of many layers to the landscape. These include the social, cultural, political and economic history, contested layers of the present (. i.e. colonisation), geological history, ecological history, personal history and community history.

Yet historic places also serve less tangible social and personal roles. What roles do advocates of historic preservation feel historic places can play in society. Why are these things we’ve just listed seen as being important?

It is because place help people define their own public pasts, triggering memories for insiders who have shared a common past, while at the same time representing shared pasts to outsiders. It is quite significant in industrial heritage sites. People find a sense of identity thought their work place and will often relate to the places that they or their parents, grandparents worked.

So, at a social level, the focus on the local and personal historic place can renew personal/family/community pride in connection to the larger community (i.e. military service/sacrifice in war, the story of clean water, the Severn Valley Railway), which in turn widens support for public memory.

While nostalgia can certainly play a part in our attachment to historic places, people also value local historic places because they see them as continuing to enhance the quality of life and relationship people have with the places around them today. Similarly, the historic landscape is seen to give greater depth to places – presenting evidence of continued adaptations and social change that have taken place, and offering a basis for diversity today.

The act of preservation is an autobiographical undertaking, dependent upon the belief that the past is of value to the present.

Interpreting place

What are the complexities/costs/trade-offs surrounding preservation?

All of our landscapes are made up of layer upon layer of human activity, be these social, productive, creative, or destructive forces. There is no landscape untouched by human beings. In more densely inhabited areas, the economic and social forces thus become more complex – change becomes more rapid, there are more layers to a given landscape that humans have ties to. Therefore, we have to decide what to preserve is as much debated as how to preserve.

Archaeology, and site preservation/interpretation are both creative and destructive process, there is a ‘cost’ to presenting any dominant interpretation of site. For example, is interpretation static and what are the implications of this?

Also the idea of photo restoration. What can we lose when we restore? I will argue that it can be a win win. Wes still have the original, and the restored copy.

Because place occupies geographical space, it is difficult for two layers of the past to exist at the same time. This is further complicated by the weight we place on ‘historical fabric’ Dislocation of place from its space is also often seen to degrade place; but not always. We can’t anticipate what will be of value in the future, yet site preservation/ and or interpretation is often a one-way street.

How do we manage other interpretations (individual and collective) of ‘place’ when dominant interpretations make this difficult?

Do we even need to bother preserving say the hulks at the ships graveyard in Purton Gloucester or the pumping station at Sandfields?

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  • What do we preserve?
  • Who decides?

Owing to the nature of place attachment, the relationship the individual has to historic places is unique. Places seen as ‘national shrines’ are perhaps the best example. For the outsider, the broader historical narrative forms the basis to their understanding of place, while for the insider, this may be something completely different. The same can be said for sites of contested history.

What happens when one layer of history is dominant in relation to a site? How do we even judge if a layer is dominant? Does it have to be dominant for all groups with a claim to that space, and if not, how do we judge whose claims are valid. Who has the right to have a say in how these site are managed?

Multiple meanings of some places.

Place attachment is also a core factor in the perceived value of ‘historic places’ – the ability to connect with both the built and natural environment intertwined in cultural landscapes is the key. From a heritage perspective, when we visit them, we feel that they somehow speak to us, that through visiting them we confront the past in a tangible, immediate way. In part this again is because of the multi-sensory way in which we experience place, and in part because of the emotional and intellectual weight we give to the tangible fragments of history.

It is not necessarily logical or tangibility that is important. As Robin Hood Historian J. C. Holt, for example notes, the myths and stories of Robin Hood now form not only a significant part of Nottingham and the surrounding shires’ history and identity, but have also contributed to the preservation of Sherwood forest.

So, as a society, why do we preserve historic places (particularly those seen to be of national, regional, or community significance)?

  • tell us stories about past events and people felt to be important;
  • record technological/architectural change;
  • reflect cultural shifts;
  • beauty;
  • profit (including tourism).

As the Gentry and Hayden chapters hopefully highlighted, however, the ‘historical’ is but one of many layers to the landscape. These include the social, cultural, political and economic history, contested layers of the present (. i.e. colonisation), geological history, ecological history, personal history and community history.

It is important to understand that historic places also serve less tangible social and personal roles. What roles do advocates of historic preservation feel historic places can play in society. Why are these things we’ve just listed seen as being important?

Place help people define their own public pasts, triggering memories for insiders who have shared a common past, while at the same time representing shared pasts to outsiders. Also at a social level, the focus on the local and personal historic place can renew personal or family community pride in connection to the larger community, which in turn widens support for public memory.

While nostalgia can certainly play a part in our attachment to historic places, people also value local historic places because they see them as continuing to enhance the quality of life and relationship people have with the places around them today. Similarly, the historic landscape is seen to give greater depth to places – presenting evidence of continued adaptations and social change that have taken place, and offering a basis for diversity today.

 

Source;

 

Notes taken from a lecture on place attachment at Ruskin College.

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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.

Links;

Mapseekers Archive Publishing;
mapseeker.co.uk/

David Moore – Historian, filmmaker, photographer
publichistoryblog.wordpress.com/
youtube.com/channel/UCr94oT1lZFb2vsKAfmYRsVA

Sandfields Pumping Station;
morturn.wordpress.com/

Ian Henery;
ianhenerypoet.com/

Wildfire Through Staffordshire;
amazon.co.uk/dp/1844917975/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=13YUFH98ZYRS5&coliid=I37FH8IN65JD0A

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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.

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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’.

_MG_7018

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.

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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.

_MG_7024

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.

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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.

_MG_7033

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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