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.

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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.





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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 hands on this place.

It’s not been messed about with, it 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 hang 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.

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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



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


Tyseley, James Road, off Kings Road 1968


Tyseley, Hay Hall, Redfern Road 1968


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.


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Eaten by Worm and Rats, then Blown Away by the Farting Misericord.

While the academic records can tell the story of an individual, so can the objects that an individual chooses to leave behind. Grave markers tell the story of the dead as told by the living, but a cenotaph tell the story of the person, as told by themselves.

Friday 2 June promised copious quantities of rain. Great for dogs, they never take a day off rain or shine 24/7. It was time for an object fix.

I love objects. Object are a repository of the past. Objects tell stories. Object have both public and private meanings. Object transcend time and change in value. We add meaning to objects and search for solace, safety and security within them.

We have a basic instinct to search, investigate and make sense of the word around us, we revisit and revise past narratives to make sense of our world today, and leave a trial of breadcrumbs to our past lives. We can also do this with objects. Each of us in our own individual way has an opportunity to leave lasting mark on the world, it can be done with an object. However, be warned, objects caused the death of the author.

Tewksbury Abby is a remarkable building. It is the home of some large as life objects, and an amazing good café. Both the Abby and the Café welcome dogs. It is refreshing when you’re not ambushed by the collection tin shakers as you enter. The Abby has an abundance of medieval church monuments and a very pleasing lack of wordy interpretation panels that leave you free just to enjoy the most amazing space. We need more spaces like this.

I know as much about the history of Tewksbury Abby, as I know about history, not a lot. That’s a job for the academics and local historians. My interest in it is as an object; containing objects. Although I am prepared to push the boundary’s a bit and include its Norman architecture with its Romanesque crossing tower. Its nostalgia; I’ve had a thing about Romanesque architecture since college days. The massively thick walls, rounded arches and beefed up pillars just ooze longevity. The architects were making a clear and bold statement. It is something that once you see it, you look for it then recognise it elsewhere.

It’s interesting how this Abby survived the dissolution and was not raised to the ground like so many of the others. There is a local story that Henry VIII agreed with the towns folk that they could keep the building as a church if they compensated him for his lost revenue. Apparently, payment was a little slow forthcoming, so Henry started the demolition of the Abbey which promptly bought payment.

Eaten by Worm and Rats

I did explore the possibility that by the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament which made Henry VIII Supreme Head of the Church in England. So, by removing himself from Papal authority and becoming the head of the Church of England, he would have needed a maintain a church infrastructure. So, how could he have done this? Was there some collusion between the abbot and the King?

At the time of the reformation, Abbot Wakeman was not fired, as were some of his cohorts, in fact he continued on to develop a very interesting career as the last Abbot of Tewkesbury and first Bishop of Gloucester.

Wakeman allegedly constructed a cadaver tomb cenotaph to himself in Tewkesbury Abbey, on the north-east side of the high altar, and also managed get himself buried in two other different paces.

Wakeman died in 1549 , so along with his tomb in Tweskbury the records show that he is also buried in Gloucester Cathedral and at Forthampton Court, in a small village about three miles from Tewksbury. You can’t keep a good man down.

His cadaver tomb is a fascinating object. A cadaver tomb or transi (or memento mori tomb, Latin for “reminder of death”). This style of tomb has in my opinion a continental look and feel to it that possibly predates Wakeman by 100 years, although I do know of one 16th century cadaver tomb . Waksman’s is a life-size depiction of a rotting cadaver being eaten by rats, snake’s and other flesh-eating wildlife, with him still looking like he was soon after death.

I think of objects as having both a public and a private meaning. So, let’s see how it works with this object.

Public meaning. Some see this cadaver tomb as an object that is intended to be a didactic example of how transient earthly glory is, since it depicts what all people finally become. Most certainly it is a shocking display of transient mortality.

Private meaning. Wakeman seems to have flourished as a result of the reformation, while other had less fortunate and very foreshortened lives. How did a man, who spent a lifetime oozing morality?

He secured his own appointment by intrigue, obtaining the interest of Sir William Kingston and of Thomas Cromwell….
…. John Wiche, surrendered his monastery, receiving an annuity of four hundred marks. He then seems to have taken the name Wakeman, by which he was afterwards known .

So, is this tomb Walkman’s shocking display of transient mortality, or is this a display of Waksman’s aspirations of high-ranking nobility?

An object caused the death of the author.

The Robeson Cenotaph, Archdeacon Robeson was vicar from 1877-92 during the great Victorian restoration of the abbey. He too is in fact, buried in Bristol Cathedral. The most remarkable thing, about Robeson is he seems a most unremarkable man, apart from his Cenotaph. This really is a generous indulgence, an original no expense spared object that stand head and shoulders high with the tomb of a member of the monarchy.

I see it as on a par with some of the medieval knight’s tombs elsewhere in the Abby. Its bid bold and it’s extraordinary lifelike. They say that within every person there are three. How we see ourselves, how we think others see us, and how others see us. So, it seems odd to that a vicar would erect such a lavish display to project his own image in death that is inevitably lost when seeking to leave a legacy of his own life. Maybe mutually exclusive applied to the three states of mind, most certainly in my opinion is the outcome in the living world caused the death of this author.

This is a piece of artwork that has evolved a new identity, as the casual visitor has added their special touch. Look how the visitors have stroked his bald head, and polished it to a high gloss. Is this really how Archdeacon Robeson expected to be remembered, or was his own self-identity for too removed from a worldly sense of reality.

Blown Away by the Farting Misericord.

On the south side of the Abby, near to the choir screen we can find the mischievous misericord number 17. It’s one of those rude carvings of a naked human figure with its bum exposed in a gesture of contempt. Scatological or vulgar humour is quite common on misericords. Either way, your own interpretation clearly defines who you are.

Is farting associated with the devil and the sulphurous stench of hell, or do farts keep the devil at bay?


“A force of some hundred of combined atmospheres produced by the vapours accumulated and long compressed in the interior of the earth, was hoisting us upwards with irresistible power. But to what countless dangers it exposed us! Soon lurid lights began to appear in the vertical gallery, which was growing wider; on both right and left …

‘Look, look, uncle!’ I cried”.

Sounds familiar somehow, but there no systematic and encyclopaedic work on the medieval fart, maybe we are now, a bit up tight.


[1] “Wakeman, John”. Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

[1] Sophie Oosterwijk, “Food for worms – – food for thought. The appearance and interpretation of the “verminous” cadaver in Britain and Europe”, Church Monuments, 20 (2005), 40-80, 133-40.

[1] Exeter Cathedral houses a 16th-century cadaver tomb

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wakeman

[1] https://www.fragrantica.com/news/A-Diabolical-Whiff-Scents-of-Hell-7475.html



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#365daysofdagwalking Upton-upon-Severn

Upton-upon-Severn is the smallest town in the country, and only an hour’s drive from home. My association with Upton is three-fold. It is the home of the Peter Sefton Furniture School. Peter is a master craftsman who runs what is in my opinion one of the finest word working training schools in the country. I know Peter well, and he can take the complete novice or the experienced craftsman skills to unimaginable levels of perfection. All done in an idyllic setting, looking toward the Malvern Hills.

Upton of course is also on the River Severn. A great opportunity for me to get my River Severn fix; landscape enlarging consciousness. Landscape is not limited to physical setting but includes people, events, ideas, concepts, principles, words, works, and just about anything subject to memory. Because all experience is filtered through memory, memory becomes landscape.

Upton also has a cholera burial ground, which of course feeds my passion for all things water and water engineering. The cholera arrived in Upton around 25th July 1832 and quickly wiped out around 37 people. Like many riverside towns, the cholera possibly arrived via the nearby sea port of Bristol. The medical opinion of the day thought that cholera was caused by bad air, so victims were treated with purgatives and emetics.

With no known cause of death, the speed of infection and the high mortality rate, it is easy to understand why the victims were buried outside of the town. With numerous members of the same family’s dying each day, and the local churchyard already overflowing, the accompanying horror must have been overwhelming for the townsfolk. An area of land, known as the Parsons Field was chosen for a mass burial ground.

The cholera Walk passes by this historic site, and can be found by walking out of Upton East along New Street and then onto foot path 525 to the left of the flood defence gates. After half a mile or so, turn left up Cutthroat Lane to the cholera ground. You can then follow the redundant railway line, foot path 596 back to Upton.

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Got that Friday feeling?

Leawood Pump house is open on Satuday and Sunday 1 and 2 October, so what could be better than to get yourself down to the Cromford Canal and the High Peak Junction.

Take a train ride from Whasandwell to Cromford and take yourself back in time by exploring some of our finest industrial heritage. Walk back along the Cromford canal to experience some of the most beautiful aspects of our industrial past.

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

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.

#fridayfeeling get yourself down to the Cromford canal and enjoy some industrial heritage #sandfields #AIAadvocacy



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A Black Jacket

Reconstructing the past

It is so easy to fill your head with names and dates when looking at past events. But is this the only way to see the past?

Object can bridge a significant gulf between the present and the past. Not only can objects transcend time, they can carry with them both the public and private stories of a personnel life; so if you can unpick the code, you can see the world through the eyes of a person who does a hundred years ago.

Linda takes us back in time with both written eloquence, a stunning series of photographs and a needle and cotton.

Click through to read more….


It’s interesting where this blog is leading me. I think I’m turning into a Victorian. Or at least, my culturally biased idea of a Victorian. Certainly my fashion sense has changed.

I came across a Victorian jacket in an antique shop in Leominster. I told the owner that I loved the jacket, but the Victorians were so small that I would never find anything I could actually wear. “Oh, I’ve worn it”, she said. As she was slightly bigger than me, this sounded promising. So, of course, I tried it on and bought it.

Here it is:


I didn’t initially decide to document what I was doing, so at this stage I’d already ironed it and done one or two repairs. It then occurred to me that it was relevant to Minnie. This is to do with the way I’m experiencing the garment. The lace, beads, silk, and fastenings are…

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A Veil

Memories, love, nostalgia, connections and anchors to the past are some of the things that Linda discusses in this month’s post. Click thought to read how we make connection to the past though an object that has changed its value as it has transcended time….


I’m fascinated with the idea of objects as a gateway to the past. The recipe book itself, of course is the original object linking me to Minnie, but I still keep my eye on eBay and have a motley collection by now of items which relate to Victorian Dewsbury. Although these may not have a direct connection with Minnie, they constitute a part of her world and enable me to feel closer to her.

I’ve already written about the photograph of Minnie’s sister, about the coins in circulation in the time of Minnie, about a pocket watch made by a jeweller local to Minnie and about a dress similar to ones she may have worn. All these give me a sense of connection to Minnie’s Dewsbury.

Margot Chadwick and I discussed the value of objects when we last met in Dewsbury. We were at the home of the owner of…

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The Ships Graveyard at Purton, Gloucestershire

I have this 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 the spatial dimension, with research on perception showing 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.

The wort Iron ribs of Dispatch

The wort Iron ribs of Dispatch

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 small of certain plants or trees, transporting us back to grandma’s garden. The sounds of a plastic carrier bag one when stepping off a bus immediately transporting me back in time to pre car days. 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 sued this technique when conducting oral interviews. Because there is a strong association between place and memory. Places remain a part of us long after we stop being a part of them.

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 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. Our knowledge of them, however, can at times be so detailed that we can go to those places and navigate them quite successfully through imagination alone. Example may be genealogy or iconic locations.

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 well being. 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 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

A place changes through the placement of objects within the landscape, and as the objects placed within the landscape undergo entropy, the value of the place and its object contained therein change, giving to us a direction of time. The change is accelerated as the stories, histories, images and names that record the layers in the landscape grow and evolve.

The village of Purton is at first glance very much like many of the hundreds of small villages in England, with its farms, a pub, a church and a dozen cottages. The views around the village are rather nice, especially towards the Cotswold escarpment, along the Gloucester and Sharpness canal and across the wide expanse of the River Severn. It is along the river and canal that we must look to find the reason why Purton is different.

The Gloucester & Sharpness canal was designed to carry vessels of 600 tons and more, and in 1905 over 1 million tons of cargo were transported between Gloucester and Sharpness. The River Severn is at its widest point here, before it becomes the Bristol Channel.

In 1909, the course of the river at Purton changed following a collapse in the river bed, resulting in a rapid erosion of the canal bank adjacent to the river. Drastic action was required as the canal is higher than the river, and a breach in the bank would have been disastrous for the canal and its traders. The Canal Companies Chief Engineer A.J. Cullis called for surplus old scrap vessels to be run aground along the bank of the Severn near Purton, creating a makeshift tidal erosion barrier, reinforcing the narrow strip of land between the river and canal. Numbers of barges, trows and schooners were “hulked” at high tide, holed and filled with silt to form a barrier protecting the banks from the fierce currents of the river Severn.



During the 1950’s and 60’s commercial traffic started to reduce due to an oil pipeline built directly from Bristol to Kingsbury in the Midlands, then the Match Making Industry at Gloucester moved its production abroad . Along with other factors like other barge traffic coming to an end in the face of competition from road transport, more and more boats became redundant, and were subsequently hulked, turning the landscape into a graveyard for ships. These hulked ships have effectively become a collection, therefore the value of the whole, has become more than the sum of the entire single items together.

As these hulked boats have transcended time, they have become a static collection within the landscape, ultimately changing the landscape itself. This change alters the perceptions of those who visit, expanding their consciousness.

Collections like this can be astonishingly powerful and revealing, they can create history and help people acquire a sense of the past. Why, because they are a representation of the common working boats of the River Severn and south coast, and are substantial in number. They invite people to research their history and therefore as a whole can tell their extraordinary stories, helping to preserve the past.

Unfortunately, they have attracted the attentions of trophy hunters, this creates a problem in that as the souvenir hunter attempts to preserve their part of the past, their activity in fact actually helps to destroy or devalue the prize that they seek. In the case of the Purton hulks it is the name plates. This is because the souvenir hunters have placed immense personal value on objects that are probably of little material value. Nevertheless name plates can be of great value to the possessor, because of their relationship to an individual and that person’s biography, the memento becomes an emblem of that life, at a cost of accelerating the destruction of our heritage.

This destruction brings about possibly the most damaging and irreversible change, as the objects pass through their biographical journey, and are stripped of their name plates, then their identities, their stories and their histories are slowly, but surely stripped away with them. Leaving the hulks now not only ownerless, but also nameless, leaving values free to change becoming ambiguous and mutable as loss grows.

This destruction brings about changes in value, rarity. This combination of entropy and rarity brings about a change in status, as the hulks become relics from the past, and an ever growing emotional potency can take its turn as the collection acquires new status through new interests, to different people.

In 1999 an environmental health student, Paul Barnett, whose family history has a maritime background, and is interested in Marine History in his own right, visited the hulks at Purton and was immediately captivated by both the emotional potency and rarity value of the hulks. He describes Purton as “a place that has its very own special character”, that you have to experience to appreciate.

At the time of his first visit, he was part way through a degree course in geology, when he soon began to appreciate the value of these objects in this special landscape. He was quick to recognise that this was not the normal ‘a lot of ships with a few posh Admirals attached’ scenario found in most maritime museums or displays, but a very unique collection of small ships, representing several hundred years of maritime ship building history, trading on the river Severn, and sailors. He also understood how these hulks represented the lives of ordinary working people, both men and women, from the shipwright’s of Saul Junction, to the nail making women of Brierley Hill in the Black Country. As Paul Barnett made further visits to Purton, he became acutely aware of the rarity value of these hulks, and how these values had been compromised through the systematic removal of the name plates. He understood that without names, there were no identities, and without identities there were no stories, and with no stories there no memories, and with no memories there could be no history. He knew immediately what part he must play in the story of the Hulks of Purton; he must give these hulks their names back.

Paul Barnett set himself the monumental task of researching and finding the names of all the vessels, at the same time effectively hijacking his own degree course. Over the next ten years, he worked tirelessly interviewing ex waterways staff involved in the hulking of the ships, he wrote letters to Universities, searched Maritime Archives at Greenwich, all in his quest to identify as many of the hulks as he possibly could. He obtained photographs of the ships from earlier times, to carefully examine in the most microscopic detail, to cross reference each hulk and prove its identity.

It was not until sufficient research had been completed, and 80 of the hulked ships had been identified accurately, that he was then able to bring his finding to the public arena, firstly conducting free guided tours of the site providing experiences focusing on the display of these objects in powerful settings.

He also started conducting talks to interested groups of people and making himself and the Purton Ships Graveyard known to as wide an audience as possible. The effect of this was to bring the hulks back to life through stories of their own histories. So popular are his tours and talks, that he persuaded the canal company to erect a sculpture to the Purton Hulks, naming all eighty ships. He has also raised sponsorship money, so that he can erect small cast iron name plates alongside each hulk truly giving an identity back to each boat.

We can now see how it is possible to change, and influence values of objects by opening them up and laying them out for all to see the imaginative potential of an objects former life. It also shows that second hand goods are imbued with a history and geography all of their own, and theoretically, all the things of material culture have the potential to become meaningful again, even when they have been effectively withdrawn and deactivated as commodities through, disposal, damage or decay. An object looks different if you know that it relates to your ancestor’s experience.

The old Kennet Barge Harriett built in 1905

The old Kennet Barge Harriett built in 1905

Go and visit the Purton ships graveyard, it is a must see place. Please also
remember that it is a cemetery for ships, their duality being that graveyard
objects are the last monuments of the lives of the people who built, sailed and
worked with them, they therefore should be left to rest in peace


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