Saturday, 31 January 2009

A glimmer of light

There is deep gloom pervading this neck of the Republic caused by the ongoing theft of cash from the lottery fund and thence diverted to the wretched Olympics, the result of such robbery being worthwhile 'heritage' (apologies Gervase: projects have had to be shelved. Now best not get me started on why we should have to have heritage projects funded in the first place by such means, but as we have I pay my quid (nothing if not reckless) in the hope each week that the fickle finger of fortune might point in my direction; then at least some of that cash could be diverted to worthy causes of my choosing (and no, not simply propping up historic breweries at risk).

I could, for example, distribute some of my largesse by helping out with the repair of the Burns Monument, which was mentioned earlier this week. Funds are still required. I see that Edinburgh World Heritage has now added new pictures to its website of the current state of play. I took some of my own in December, when I watched the scaffolding being erected and removal of the twiddly bits surmounting the roof; I really should start a linked photo album for this blog.

This is a most fascinating roof, around which a major part of the repair work centres At some point in the latter half of the 20th century, the powers at the council, which owns the monument, decided to add a roof covering. It was a rather odd affair of asphalt, all carefully crafted into leaf shapes, the reasoning for which eluded me until now. Plain sheets would have done the job adequately, although not particularly atractively, and even so carefully crafted it was still asphalt, and an odd choice of material for this historic structure (that's along with the cementy stuff). Well, all is now revealed, literally; under the asphalt is the most beautiful roof of carved stone, in leaf shapes. Hopefully the condition is sound, and it can be repaired without vast expense and displayed in glorious 3D sometime soon.

When first built, the Burns Monument housed a statue of the bard, sculpted by John Flaxman RA, but that was very soon removed (1839) as it was claimed it was being damaged by soot from the nearby gas works. It is now in the National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street. While not in any way believing that return of the original is possible, or even necessarily desirable, if enough cash could be raised my view is that a new one could, and should, be commissioned in this Homecoming year, and if that lottery win this weekend is mine, this is the person I would commission for the job:

Actually, the history of gas generation is something in which I have started to take more than a passing interest of late; I bet not many people know that Edinburgh's Princes Street was one of the first public places to have gas street lighting, 1822. There is a small historic gas generation complex and display at Culzean Castle, and yes another set of pics I should upload (along with the ice houses); however, the splendid website, which has provided me with happy hours of browsing and subsequent visiting, is up to speed on this one. Note the Europa Nostra Award, of which organisation more very soon.

There's 'wider reading' here about the history of gas in Edinburgh and its surrounding area: and although one of the historic Granton gastowers is listed, developers wish to have it demolished, to join the other bulldozed structures, claiming, as ever, that repair is uneconomic. So it's not just mining industrial heritage (see comments Tuesday that's underappreciated and under threat. Wiki, too, is useful:

I confess to being old enough (just) to recall gas street lighting, with the lamplighter coming round each evening, and homes lit by gas, although that fancy electrickery had its uses it wasn't altogether widespread. In those days no-one was being held to ransom because gas came via giant pipeline from forin' parts, we made our own, albeit probably at great environmental cost, before we discovered the stuff in the North Sea. For the past three and a bit decades, though, I have lived in places with no gas supply, although have a reminder of childhood with an ancient caravan and the gentle 'Bijou' gas light, with its its slight hiss, which has warmed us and allowed late night reading over a mug of cocoa on many a holiday weekend.

Public lighting wasn't always uncontroversial stuff, as this little gem of a tale in the link shows:

"The Dalston emblem is a black and red cockerel and the Dalston motto is ' Whilst I live I'll crow' . The following sculpture is a modern representation of the Dalston emblem and was erected in the millenium year. It was placed on the base stones of what was known as the Dalston Lamp, which was a monument erected in 1911 to commemorate the coronation of King George V. For an excellent detailed history of this monument written by Oliver Roberts click on following... The History of the Lamp "
(Be warned... that contains the C word... yes conc****. Historic conc**** though so it's OK.

There's a larger picture here of the structure as it is now:, with the excellent millenium sculpture thingy on top, created by me mate John Parkinson at And like that war memorial which I wrote about newly listed in Norfolk earlier this month, this is one of those small but significant structures (the 'petit patromoine'?) which bring joy to our small villages, alongside the stories they tell. However, it's clear that listing of such things, with the protection it should bring, is patchy; I wonder if that was to be put forward now for listing if it would be successful? (More about listing, and indeed conservation areas, very soon, with some updates).

All of which ramble (including along the Millenium Way) wasn't actually what I intended to write much about today, when I started it was to be about this story in today's Scotman: but hey. This is one of those projects where, thankfully, lottery cash is being given, and it started me off on some frenetic googling to see what more I could find. So to save others the bother, here is some of what came up on screen:
"This is a unique collection of world historic significance... Despite its character as a working class city, public art in Glasgow largely ignored labour as a theme. Where it is recorded, labour is most often represented by classical maidens as at the Stock Exchange, or by medievalised workers on the City Chambers, or even by cherubim operating machinery. Adam's Maryhill stained glass panels are a dramatic exception... " the rest is here: and here:

More delving brought up this excellent collection of images, showing just how beautiful these windows are (Biff, hope you are reading this):

I have misappropriated one for the picture at the top, showing - yes, a gasworker.

"Gas Worker by Stephen Adam, c 1878. One of a series of twenty stained glass windows made for Maryhill Burgh Halls showing local trades and professions, this one depicts a gas worker stoking a furnace with gas plant in the background.

During the 19th century coal gas was widely used for lighting homes, businesses and public areas. The gas was produced by heating coal in an air-free retort (creating coke as a by-product of the process. The first gas companies in Glasgow were privately owned, but in 1869 they were purchased by the town council which established the municipal Gas Department.
Dawsholm Gas Works was built in Skaethorn Road, 1871-1872, at a cost of £160,000. It replaced the ageing Townhead Gas Works which had been established in 1817 and closed in 1874. The Dawsholm Gas Works consisted of a large complex of buildings including a red brick retort house, office blocks, houses and a plate girder railway bridge linking the site to the Forth and Clyde Canal. The site is now occupied by a housing estate."

Do keep in touch - thanks for the comments and the e-mails, I gather that as a group the blogs are being appreciated, and passed on, so keep 'em coming folks, and if any other refugee wishes to join in - please do, and send the link and I can add it to those on the right.


(No comments about being a gasbag... I have the delete key... ;-) )
PS Links for Biff, see comments:
Tams and bonnets:
CO's link:
Sooty's link:

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Tartan Republic

As it's the year of Scottish Homecoming then there may be much Scottish stuff in my blog this year. Apart from that it's a country of which I am very fond, live not far from, and several good friends live there, consequently I am kept up to date with a great deal. So today I have decided to stick with Scotland, with some current news.

I understand that the Burns celebration (of which there will be many more in this anniversary year) held yesterday evening at No 5 Charlotte Square (see Tuesday's blog and more here: was a great success, with a talk by Prof David Purdie, music by Rod Patterson, and good Scottish food and drink. Meself I feel pleased that Edinburgh World Heritage is opening the doors of its magnificent premises to residents of the city (and indeed anyone who cares to visit from elsewhere) and not just having 'invitation only' events for civic bigwigs, grands fromages and the like (which would exclude riff raff such as moi I fear). World Heritage Sites, with their 'Outstanding Universal Value', are there for us all, a theme I may return to at another date, given that the government is currently consulting on the future of them in this country. I may be an old cynic, but I can't help feeling that this 'consultation' is geared towards downplaying them, as UNESCO has been critical of some of this country's stewardship. Treating them as a cash cow isn't really what it's supposed to be about, DCMS.

No 5 is actually owned by the National Trust for Scotland (as indeed is a great deal more of Charlotte Square), a body which has had its fair share of financial and other troubles in recent times; two pieces of news this week may relieve the gloom a touch. A new Chief Executive has been appointed, and it has been revealed in The Scotsman that a magnificent donation of £1.4m has been made by an American who has never actually visited the country. Here's an extract from Tim Cornwell's report:

"A MYSTERY American recluse who chose to put his cash into Scottish castles rather than US banks has handed over a gift of £1.4 million for the National Trust for Scotland, The Scotsman has learned.

The anonymous donor, who has no known Scottish connections, told NTS staff he was making the gift because he "had lost all trust in bankers and the US government", they said. He felt his money would be better going to a charity, or something he cared about – like Scottish castles. Little is known about the donor, who has demanded anonymity from the trust, though he is a reclusive, childless retired man, who has clearly saved millions but is probably not super-rich.He has asked for half of his £1.4 million gift to be spent on castles run by the trust, and the rest to be allocated to the Burns Birthplace Museum – a £21 million project to convert the poet's former home in Alloway, Ayrshire, which is due for completion next year.

Curt diCamillo, an architectural historian who heads the trust's US fund-raising arm, the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, said it was an extraordinarily generous gift. "It's astounding. It overnight doubled the amount of money we had sent to Scotland from here over the past ten years," he said."I don't think he's ever been to Scotland. He likes castles. A lot of Americans do – crenellated battlements, flags and knights. He's very, very reclusive."The $2 million gift was worth just over £1 million when it was transferred last year – it would have been worth closer to £1.4 million now. Nonetheless, the donation is a welcome shot in the arm for the trust.The organisation has an annual income of about £44 million, but has looked at closing some properties and selling its headquarters in Edinburgh's New Town amid falling visitor numbers and a funds shortfall. Lorna Stoddart, the trust's former director of development, and Johanna Gurland, a US fundraising consultant, worked closely with the donor. He plans to leave his Los Angeles home and its contents to the trust as well. "

Curt DiCamillo, incidentally, also compiles the most amazing database of extant and lost country houses in Britain and Ireland online, the DiCamillo Companion, and 2009 is its tenth anniversary: and worth reading.

In contrast, the worthy winner of this year's Carbuncle Cup for Scotland has been announced today too, so Glenrothes will be celebrating tonight - or not, as the case may be depending on which side of that particular fence you are on (and more here : )

The awards 2009 have not been without incident however, as Alan Dunlop, Glasgow architect, has thrown a very public hissy fit as apparently some have been (shock) critical of his Glasgow towers:

I can't really feel too poor diddums for Mr D, a man who thinks buildings should not be listed, who has little time it seems for history, and who also wrote (no idea why) a critical piece about ICOMOS Edinburgh World Heritage in a past AJ. Well OK, man's entitled to an opinion, but that opinion has been seized on by others (mostly other architects - I wonder why?) and repeated on various websites. The problem is, his opinion seemed to be unrelated to any insight or knowledge of which he was blethering. Not sure this whole thing will have made him any more than a laughing stock, although, to steal a phrase, no doubt he continues to be a legend in his own lunchtime.

Fellow architect Allan Murray seems not to be getting a totally smooth ride in BD over his designs for the Edinburgh (or indeed as some have dubbed it 'Murrayburgh') 'SoCo' site either, where the dreadful fire destroyed many WHS buildings, although. as ever, the councillors on the planning committee were quite happy to allow the plans to sail through, making such insightful comments as "It will be a bonny addition to the city" (see the Independent Republic blog for more). Ye gods.

From the nasty to the nice - another small but interesting scheme from Edinburgh World Heritage, which links in with yesterday's blog about shop frontages, is here:

Yes, that does contain my least favourite phrase about returning to former glory, but apart from that, I look forward to seeing this particular eyesore improved and a sensitive frontage re-introduced, as EWH has done in other places. What a terrific building though, and how good that it has remained as unspoiled internally.

You have to wonder, however, what planning vacuum allowed this particular eyesore to happen in the first place, and what the owners were thinking of. When you consider the pleasing signage on that old picture of FW Woolworth from yesterday, we aren't really improving our public realm greatly in so many cases when it comes to this type of sign, are we?

There's so much more to write about Scotland, but for today I leave this with
Brewery of the Week (number two in an occasional series):
One of my favourites.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Pick 'n' Mix

with the demise of Woolie's, I wonder if you can still pick 'n' mix?

Sad that such a national institution as Woolworth's has gone down the financial pan, I have very fond memories of it from when I was a child. There was a tiny branch near my home. I recall dark wooden floors, dark wooden interior with goods laid out behind small (glass?) upstands on wooden counters. As soon as I was old enough to clasp a coin or two of my own pocket or birthday money, off I went to browse. My mother's birthday gifts were bought there - plain hankies to be embroidered with her initial in wobbly chain stitch, and a memorable Mothering Sunday plastic basket of plastic anemones, which she greeted with what must have been feigned pleasure. The girly joys of a first bra (probably a 28AA whether I needed it or not and I think it cost a shilling, but so much better than a Liberty bodice with rubber buttons for suspenders, even if it did still have to be worn under a St Michael vest) and make-up to be tried in a gaggle behind the outside lavs in the last year of primary school (Miner's - bright pink, shocking blue - gorgeous) were acquired from Woolie's. What, I wonder, will happen to those Deco exteriors which have been a feature of high streets great and small for so many decades? Despite the changes in signage over time, it was still often discreet and didn't overwhelm the building. I suspect that we will get nasty plastic frontages (Iceland has bought a number), and many a store will vanish altogether. Among my favourites are the huge block with a parade of shops at ground level in Carlisle built in local red sandstone, and the tiny store in Barnard Castle. The one in the historic pic is one of those in Liverpool, Wavertree Road.

I don't have any pictures of my own, but I found this on t'internet (well worth a browse at the others in the set too):

One day I will learn how to do all that stuff with links hidden in text, like Gervase does on his blog, but I haven't yet got that far.

News of new blogs which I am certain will be of interest, we at the Republic seem to be developing a 'Bloggers' Circle'. First up is another from a CO who is being coy about identity but no doubt will soon give the game away to those who have regularly read his calm contributions in other places:

and the second is an additional refugee from another place: of little brain at all, in reality, but I hope she will keep us updated with her exploits in delving into archaeology in deepest Wales along with tales of house updating in the Frozen North.

Perhaps we should call ourselves Grumpy Old Bloggers, the GOBs for short; although one of our number is a GOB in spirit but not yet in years, he assures me he's been working at it since he first wore long tweed trousers.

Clicking on the links in the Followers' pics at the right will, I have found, also bring you details of the blogs. If you are a Blogger, then your dashboard will give you fresh posts of all blogs you follow. If anyone, Follower, Blogger or not, wants an alert from me when I update this do send me an e-mail (see profile) and I will add you to the growing list.

Jon Maine (see The Merchant of Shepton Mallet) has sent me this link to an album of 'before' pics to which he will add, as and when, updates:

If anyone is having trouble with the comments section, also let me know.

Apologies to people who have sent news and fresh listings and pics which I haven't yet incorporated, time is short at the moment but it's not forgotten.

In yesterday's comments Gervase raised the subject of the sad news of the impending demise, after a long campaign, of the colliery headstocks at Annesley, Notts, there are song lyrics and a poem. The latter is connected with something on my list of 'to write', the 'Treasured Places' exhibition in Edinburgh, but that's for another day.

Happy blogging, do keep in touch - it can get lonely at the end of this Republic outpost mud track.

PS See comments, here's the link:

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Good news, bad news...

I confess - this is a cheat. This is not all 'my' blog today, as I stole many of the words. It's the latest news from Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, who people will remember as the Secretary of SAVE until he moved on last year to take over the helm in the beautiful Charlotte Square (yes, green with envy...). However, it's well worth reading and following the links to find out what is happening in the World Heritage Site of Edinburgh. This of course is the good news - the bad is usually to be found here:

"Director's Notes January 2009

EWH continues its work at full steam ahead even as the winter chill blows across Edinburgh. Our hessian protecting the careful repointing in lime mortar of the base of the National Monument has survived the gales and frosts, ensuring the long term stability of the structure.

Scaffolding has gone up around the Burns monument (pictured above) in preparation for its repair and fundraising efforts continue for both this and the Nelson Monument. The need for a strong vision and a clear management framework of their environs on Calton Hill is as strong as ever, and EWH will continue to work in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council towards this.

The interpretation panels that have gone up on the hill are very well used and it is pleasing to report that our temporary boards, located near our various repair projects, continue to attract positive comment – at Shandwick Place and Well Court in the Dean Village in particular.
A further interpretive project is just starting up with the City of Edinburgh Council at the Museum of Edinburgh, creating a learning space for families. This is a small step, but significant step on the journey to engage everyone in the importance of the World Heritage Site.

Our programme of publications for the year is firing up with a series of historic home guides – in many ways bite-sized updates of the classic “The Care and Conservation of Georgian Houses” also covering the Old Town (if you have a copy of the C&C lock it up somewhere safe – they are as rare as hen’s teeth and cost more second hand than they did new).

We have a limited number of seats to a small celebration of Burns on the 28th January – it is strictly first come first served but signals the start of the development of a series of public events making better use of our offices at No 5 Charlotte Square."
I am told it's whisky and Black Bun not tatties, neeps and haggis, so if you can get to Embra - do rush to book your place.

Other news and events here:

By co-incidence, Gervase has posted on his blog about the War Memorials Trust and the good work carried out; the same organisation gave a grant towards the repair of the National Monument on Calton Hill.

More bad news on the conservation front, received today; I can do no better than post a link to it, and go drown my sorrows in a glass or two of something very alcoholic:
Back soon. Do keep commenting - I know I'm not alone then.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

It's a mad mad mad mad world?

Certainly it is as far as planning is concerned. The news that the third runway at Heathrow has been OK'd by HM Gov wasn't a surprise, but it isn't welcome news in this outpost of the Republic. Seems flattening historic buildings, and the village of Sipson of the buildings is pictured above) isn't considered to be damaging to the environment, and we can fly our way out of global warming. More about that another time. I have, though, signed up the Republic to own a bit of the action, and urge everyone to do likewise:

However, when it comes to planning, there's nothing to beat hearing of local democracy in action. Naturally all those who serve us on planning committees are the cream of councillors, with no hidden agendas and on the side of historic buildings surely? Well, maybe not....

If you really want to see the Planning Convenor of City of Edinburgh Council in full dynamic action in the City Chambers though, our old pal Youtube can oblige:

But be warned, the excitement may be too much for those of a nervous disposition.

It isn't only Edinburgh it seems; according to architecturescotland's Peter Wilson:

"Angus Sheikhouse

Still in the Highlands, two interesting tales this week from the world of planning. The first concerns the application on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Crown Prince and ruler of Dubai, to add a two-storey lodge to the 14 bedroom mansion on his Inverinate Estate in Wester Ross. Not just any old extension, mind you, but one split into three blocks containing penthouse chambers, a dining room, kitchen and a further 16 bedrooms with en-suite facilities and living areas. The local planning officers, bless their cotton socks, felt the design was “inappropriate and insensitive” next to the Victorian mansion and recommended that the application be refused. The same officials had some more interesting comments attributed to them in the press, not the least of which was that the proposals were “more akin to development found in business parks or halls-of-residence”. And of course there was a single objection from a member of the public who thought the proposed buildings were “like something you would find in the Arabian desert”. Fortunately the members of the Ross, Skye and Lochaber area committee are made of sterner stuff and approved the plans by nine votes to three on the basis that “the sheikh and his family are tremendous landowners and buy everything locally when they visit”. In any case, according to councillor Biz Campbell, “design is in the eyes of the beholder”.

Which brings me on to the second part of the story, an unconnected application lodged this past week for 5000 new homes on the Earl of Moray’s land at Tornagrain, between Inverness and Nairn. Designed to “new urban” principles by Andres Duany and scheduled to house 10000 (2 per unit, so clearly all DINKY’s* - new urbanism indeed) the £1.3m new town is due to begin on site in 2013, with developer Moray Estates expecting construction to continue for a further 35 years. Naturally, given the sheer size and impact upon the local environment, full and rigorous scrutiny of the application will be the order of the day and I expect the good Highland councillors to take the kind of pragmatic approach pioneered at Trumpton in Aberdeenshire and echoed at Inverinate Estate when making their decision. Astonishingly, some business people in Scotland actually want to reform the planning system.(* Double Income, No Kids.)"

Great stuff!

The Hootsmon has more details and quotes:

including this:

"The present Inverinate House was built 1929 to replace an earlier 1880 rebuild, following a fire in 1864. While it is not a listed building, planners said it was a fine example of Scottish vernacular architecture of its period, and lay within the Kintail National Scenic Area and special areas of conservation."

Severin Carrell in the Guardian has more from the planners, who didn't really seem to like the plans at all:

Meanwhile, that must watch (at least by Norfolk Conservation Officers and the like, who avidly sit glued to it to spot such things as illegal additions to listed buildings) Channel 5 telly prog 'Build a New Life in the Country' has exposed another glitch in our planning system, this time it seems that honourable breed the Estate Agent has been leading one couple astray where planning is concerned, and naturally they didn't think it wise to check before spending their gadzillions:

Oh dear, oh dear. Who would have thought it? It will be interesting to see how this one pans out. (Pans! Geddit? Potato store? Oh OK.)

Apologies for the blog interruption, a serious family illness has been occupying much of my time, but I hope to be resuming normal service as soon as possible, as there is a backlog of news both good and bad and in certain cases, downright ugly. Thanks to those who have sent items, the e-mail is on my profile, and all comments/discussion welcome.

PS - well done Gervase - another Blogger!
Love the jumper...

Saturday, 10 January 2009

In brief...

I posted this a month ago, and several Bloggers responded to the call. If anyone else wishes to join us, feel free!

There is now a Republic e-mail address, see the Nemesis Profile for the link.

If any citizen fancies writing an article about anything they have been doing, or a blog entry or a tad more spleen venting than is possible via the comments, or wishes to send some news and views, pictures or a link to a photo album, great. If anyone would like to write an occasional blog then why not set one up via Blogger (if I can anyone can) and we can link to it from here when it's updated?

Meanwhile, this is a blog I follow with great enthusiasm:
A worthy cause.

Back soon


Friday, 9 January 2009

Up in the air

Apologies people for short blog, a family emergency occurred this morning and I don't know how things will pan out over the next few days, however I hope to keep this updated. Welcome also Jon and Craig, and thanks for the comments. It's nice to feel I am not alone here.
Interesting stuff in the comments about the Victorian Farm prog from last night, if you wish to really live life in the raw it seems you can stay in the cottage:

although as it seems about like life chez Nem (even slightly more luxurious in fact) I suspect I will save the cash and stay at home.

Possibly we should have paying guests who wish to sample the simple life, flagstones, pantry and all? They could sleep in the bothy and work in the garden?

Some sort of good news on the conservation front:

However, the reality is slightly more complex, and I could explain in detail but this link does it so why should I?

The sad part is how much was bulldozed before SAVE stepped in; thankfully, at least several of the buildings are now protected. The picture above is the interior of one of the historic wind tunnels.
This is a larger version:
The SAVE report, Save Farnborough, The Cradle of British Aviation, is still available from SAVE publications:


Short but hopefully of interest?


STOP PRESS Just arrived, Press Release from SAVE:



As Liverpool emerges from its year in the limelight as European Capital of Culture, a new exhibition, mounted by SAVE Britain’s Heritage, takes a sobering look at the state of the city’s architectural heritage. As ever-taller apartment buildings spring up along the waterfront, countless historic buildings are still being left to rot, or demolished in the name of ‘regeneration’.

Less than a hundred years ago, Liverpool was a city of phenomenal wealth - its great dock system one of the wonders of the world. In the wake of World War II, changing patterns of industry and shipping led to steep economic decline, and in the decades that followed, the city’s built heritage was to come under terrible assault. In 1958 the bombed-out shell of one of the city’s finest landmarks, the monumental Custom House, was torn down to ‘relieve unemployment’ and countless Georgian and Victorian terraces were to follow - swept away for new housing estates.

Shockingly, large clearance schemes were to continue into the 1970s and 1980s, with Grade II-listed Clayton Square in the heart of the city demolished in 1986 to make way for a shopping centre. Today, whole terraces of good-quality Victorian houses are being cleared again, for the Edge Lane road-widening project, and for the Government’s Pathfinder housing scheme. In 1984, SAVE’s report The Agony of Georgian Liverpool documented the plight of dozens of Georgian houses. 25 years on, it is sad to report that many of the buildings featured in the report have been demolished, while others still cling on today in a desperate state of decay. Encouragingly, a number of fine inner-city Georgian terraces were saved in the 1980s through refurbishment programmes grant-aided by English Heritage, which more recently has conducted extensive research into Liverpool’s heritage and helped to fund a much-needed Buildings at Risk Officer.

Marcus Binney, SAVE's President says, ‘We have fought two of our most memorable campaigns in Liverpool, first rescuing the beautiful Regency Lyceum Club after consent to demolish had been granted and, second, taking legal action to stop the imminent demolition of the spectacular church of St Francis Xavier’.

This new exhibition will highlight the importance, as well as the vulnerability, of Liverpool’s architectural heritage - drawing attention to the alarming number of historic buildings still at risk in the city, as well as celebrating recent successes. Contemporary and historic photographs will be accompanied by commentary from leading historians, conservation experts and residents of Liverpool. The exhibition will run from 16 February to 6 March at the RIBA Gallery, 82 Wood Street, Liverpool L1 4DQ. It will be open Monday to Friday (9am-5pm), and on Saturday 21 February (11am-5pm). Further info from SAVE:
Full release including pictures:

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Merchant of Shepton Mallet

My, how the flames have reached my ears today, see below for some background, and how glad I am I do not live in Salem. Eeeeeeek.

In the garden, the cold weather has meant a large number of tits in a feeding frenzy. Clearly, that is not confined to my garden.

Don't make the elementary mistake I made while searching for an image of birds on google - be specific. Those are great tits in the picture. Try adding 'birds' to the search term.

A great deal of news sent to write about, but so gobsmacked at the vitriol some seem to think acceptable on another site (pots and kettles, citizens? I leave you to decide) that I will today confine myself to a few snippets of information. Possibly I should post a fruitcake recipe too, but I think after Christmas we have all had enough of fruitcakes?

Moving on...

Firstly, I hear that Jon Maine has finally completed the long time repair of the Merchant's House in Shepton Mallet. and Family Maine spent Christmas there. Such good news, a most beautiful and important Grade II* building rescued from dereliction; I leave the website to fill in the background, but I gather Jon is open to offers to come along and work his magic on your own home.

His recent Open Day, with guest Kevin McCloud off the telly, raised a substantial sum of money for the local hospice. Brilliant.

Courses for the next few months at the glorious Cressing Temple, Essex, which people may wish to consider for some hands-on experience:

New Year Lectures 2009

Building Recording
9.30am – 12.30pm Wednesday 28th January
Speakers: Andrew Westman, Museum of London and Elphin Watkin, Historic Building Specialist
Good building conservation is dependent on understanding and analysing the fabric of a building. These lectures will look at different methods and approaches, and the standards of documentation required in the planning system. Cost £50.

Historic Lead
9.30am – 12.30pm Wednesday 11th February
Speaker: Dr Peter Rumley, Stephen Bradbury Architects
Good specification is essential to good lead work. This day will look at historic lead, its features and how it can be repaired. Cost £50.

9.30am – 12.30pm Wednesday 18th February
Speaker: Keith Quantrill, Thatching Consultant
The session will look at the Essex thatching tradition, and address the practical issues of repair and maintenance, as well as looking at new thatch. It will also consider how to reduce the risk of fire. Cost £50.

Joinery Repair
9.30am – 12.30pm Wednesday 11th March 2009
Speaker: Joe Bispham, Historic Building Specialist
Traditional windows and doors make an important contribution to the appearance of historic buildings and should never be replaced if repair is at all possible. These lectures will look at historic joinery details as well as covering differing approaches to repairs and their specification. Cost £50.

Lime Specification
9.30am – 12.30pm Wednesday 25th March 2009
Speaker: Roy Cafferty, Traditional Lime Plasterer
The return to using lime rather than cement is the most important development of the last few decades in the care of historic buildings. The lectures will discuss the different types of limes, their use in plasters and mortar mixes, and will highlight the importance of preparation and aftercare. Cost £50.

TV tonight

A new series, The Victorian Farm, on BBC2 telly at 9pm, followed by Adam Hart Davis repeat of What the Victorians Did For Us - Steam.

"Watch a new series in which historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn move into a Victorian smallholding on the Acton Scott estate in Shropshire and live the life of Victorian farmers for a year."

No doubt it will all be available on watch again sites if you miss it. I have bottle or three of good ale in and a stack of logs, and will be glued to the TV.

Brewery website of the week (an occasional series):

Interesting website with a forum, which looks in needs of a few more posters to me:

Yesterday's comment and picture from Gareth very interesting, indeed I wonder if that is by Boardman? Great similarities.

Do keep in touch. I gather some have had probs posting comments, I HOPE that is resolved but I am very new to finding my way around the Blogger technology. Thank for all the support, I cannot tell you how much it is appreciated.


Something concrete...

In this outpost of the Republic today has been snow and cold, so typing is one way of trying to keep the fingers warm. This blogging lark is proving useful. There is much I have to learn and great deal of technology to master, but so far it's sort of working. I chose the most simple format on offer, and I'll try to keep it that way, without adding too many bells and whistles and knobs and gargoyles and things.

Welcome to the Followers, citizens your interest is very much appreciated, a small list at the moment but I have sent this out by e-mail to a number of people also, and I have had some feedback, so I assume it's being read and I'm not just writing to myself. Welcome to another Republic, the Independent Republic of the Canongate, doughty heritage campaigners from Edinburgh, which campaign will, I have no doubt, feature at times in this blog also.

Do feel free to pass it on. I can't say it will be updated daily, but I will do my best to keep it updated with anything that takes my fancy, and if you have any news, views or just want to say hello do add in the comments section. I will investigate setting up a new Republic e-mail account so people can send any news, although with the levels of SPAM now reaching my normal inbox I wonder how wise that will prove to be. I wonder if anyone does ever respond to all those daily exhortations to increase your manhood, make her moan etc etc?

Today some very good news indeed, courtesy again of Andrew Gayton, who yesterday was informed by the Department for Meeja Culcha and Sport (the latter part boo, as that's the Olympics which is sucking so much cash from heritage projects) a listing application has been successful. That is quite an achievement, no matter how lovely or interesting the building or structure, getting something listed isn't always as simple as you would think, and that is especially so of something post 1900. In this case let's hope it's uncontentious and not standing in the way of a new shopping mall, or the developer will be hiring a Historic Buildings Consultant to write a report stating how mistaken the listing was, how little it is really worthy, and how it should be delisted and demolished...
Hard to believe I know, but some make more than a crust from doing just that.
The structure in question is a small but charming water trough come war memorial (useful and beautiful, and a re-use of an existing structure so an early example of sound conservation too) in Kilverstone, Breckland, Norfolk, the sort of structure which brings interest to so many towns and villages throughout the country, but which can become neglected and before you know it, have fallen into major disrepair and even have vanished. Once they are gone they are gone... It's of particular interest as an example of earlyish shuttered concrete, not something you associate with this sort of structure.

You would assume that all war memorials were in some way protected, but alas that is clearly not the case. Listing does at least mean that, as well as recognising its importance to national heritage, future repairs will have to be carefully considered, hopefully carried out in the most appropriate materials, and gives some small leverage with regard to maintenance of the structure.

In this instance, it's clear that the method of construction as well as the architectural charm is important, not simply that it's a war memorial.

The listing is not online yet, and as I think it's of great interest I'll put it here:

KILVERSTONE Water Trough and War Memorial Grade II
A water trough, circa 1902, designed by Edward Thomas Boardman (1861-1950) Subsequently dedicated as a First World War memorial.
MATERIALS: Shuttered concrete, shingles, tiles and cast iron.
PLAN: Square base with semi-octagonal trough.
EXTERIOR: This water trough is of shuttered concrete with a pyramidical, shingles hipped roof mounted by a ball top lead finial. On the south side is a lead gargoyle at eaves level which directs rainwater into a trough below. It has a square base with 4 projecting buttresses on the east and west sides. All four sides have arcading decorated by tile creasing within the arch. Both the east and west external walls are detailed with chequered tile creasing and have a wooden bench. The north side has an entrance with two steps and a pair of cast iron gates. The south side has a semi-octagonal water trough with the water access also decorated with tile creasing. The south side also has two bands of tile creasing and two memorial plaques: the upper plaque is inscribed: 'THE GRIEF THAT LINGERS, AND THE PRIDE THAT BURNS, ALL THAT LOVE MEANS AND HONOUR CAN EXPRESS' and the lower plaque is inscribed: 'THERE IS SOME CORNER OF A FOREIGN FIELD THAT IS FOREVER ENGLAND. 1914. 1918. FRANCE (NAMES) MESOPOTAMIA. (NAME) SALONICA. (NAME). WHO FELL IN THE GREAT WAR.'
INTERIOR: The lower part of the south wall is faced with glazes red tiles. A concrete step leads to a concrete basin containing a standpipe.

HISTORY: the water trough was commissioned in circa 1902 by the armaments manufacturer, Josiah Vavasseur of Kilverstone Hall. Sometime after 1918, it had two plaques added commemorating the parish dead of the First World War.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION: This early C20 water trough is designated at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
It is an unusual example of an Arts and Crafts designed water trough.
It is of high quality design and displays good architectural detailing.
Its is by a known architect with other listed buildings to his name
It is largely intact.
It having been subsequently dedicated to the parish dead of the First World War gives it added historic interest.
So... a water trough paid for by an armaments manufacturer later becomes a memorial to the dead, ironic really. Clicking on the pics above will enlarge.
For the really anoraky here's a little more about Boardman.
His offices with rather more interesting than usual signage:

In the north-eastern part of the Norfolk Broads, on a low rise overlooking the River Ant, stands a large, thatched Edwardian house. It is the focal point of an area of marshes, reed, sedge and woodland which has become the main field study centre of Broadland. But it began life differently, built by a man named Edward Boardman who, with his father, ran a prominent Norwich architectural practice around the turn of the last century. He would later become a JP and mayor of Norwich. Holidaying on the Broads in 1901, he and his wife discovered How Hill almost by accident when the boat, a pleasure wherry, which they had booked didn't turn up and they were offered instead a smaller trading wherry converted for summer cruising. Because it was smaller, it was able to pass under Ludham bridge on the River Ant and thus take them past How Hill where Edward, being in the business and knowing a good development site when he saw one, immediately saw this one as the ideal spot for their holiday home. He bought the land, (he eventually assembled an estate of 872 acres), and in 1905, he replaced an existing house with the present imposing structure. But even then, the house belonged almost to a past era, for the nature of Broadland itself was about to change

More from that here:

No doubt Gareth Hughes, citizen of this Republic and close to Broadland, will know more

Clearly, however, all of Boardman's work was not universally admired:

"A small building with a south aisle hidden from the street, St Edmund had been largely Victorianised by the enthusiastic Edward Boardman in the 1880s, not long before the end of its liturgical life. Boardman's is the vestry with its chimney, the roof and the top of the tower. Before Boardman got its hands on it, St Edmund had a perfectly serviceable Georgian interior, perhaps like St George Colegate. Nothing at all survives of either the Georgian or Victorian furnishings..."

Oh well.


Live links from comments:
Link to troughs at the bottom of page:

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

A smell of burning...

At this outpost of the Republic, I have been feeling today a definite whiff in the nostrils of the faggots alight at my feet. One of the Oxford Martyrs was born and raised near where I live, and although my 'burning', thankfully, is more virtual than real, it still feels a tad odd that a few folk who have never met me have taken such great umbrage and posted remarks and allegations, ranging from the mistaken and misguided through to the downright untrue, on a certain internet forum. Some of it has been 'moderated' out, but still, the whiffy remains remain. Not that I'm suggesting it's a plot or anything, naturally, as the people being so rude are too grown up for that - aren't they?

The vision of a three ring circus keeps entering my head, alongside a picture of a vent act and a dummy, but possibly I am being unfair. Unfair, that is, to circuses and dummies.

It appears that a wry comment or three on yesterday's explanatory blog hit a head or two and caps were deemed to fit. I named no names, but mudslinging commenced. Oh what larks eh? And yet more heaving up of virtual bosoms, how great it must be to be without sin and able to cast those stones from within your glass house without smiting the mote from your eye.

Also thankfully and thank you there are a few cooler wiser heads whose small voices of reason appeared, but I do wonder what on earth I have done to be vilified in such a way. Large egos and small pricks (verb or noun? You decide) perhaps?

So Republicans, onwards and upwards, is all I can say. Higher and higher.

Today I will confine myself mostly to a link, to the latest edition of the Society of Antiquaries online bulletin, SALON. It may not sound the most exciting of reads, the Soc of Crocks news, but a goodly amount of ire is aired at times regarding things we possibly hold dear to our hearts, and the links to other websites and new databases might while away a merry hour or two.

Well worth a glance.

My own ire was raised by the mention of the Middlesex Guildhall, which is situated opposite the Houses of Parliament, and had one of the finest of courtroom interiors, all part of the whole and important. Despite a desperate SAVE campaign to try to prevent it, including a beautifully illustrated campaign publication showing the splendour of the interiors and the historic woodwork, an urgent Commons Select Committee hearing, and a Judicial Review, political expediency prevailed, the place ripped and stripped, and I suspect the building will no longer now be worthy of its Grade II* listing. In fact I might bung in a delisting application, on the grounds of cultural vandalism, see what transpires.

"A first edition of Milton’s Areopagitica features in the British Library’s splendid free exhibition ‘Taking Liberties: the struggle for Britain’s freedoms and rights’, which was reviewed in the last issue of Salon, with the observation that it was ironic that the Ministry of Justice was one of the exhibition’s sponsors. Salon readers will perhaps remember the doughty (but ultimately unsuccessful) campaign mounted by SAVE Britain’s Heritage, with the support of many Fellows, to prevent the Edwardian furnishings of the Middlesex Guildhall from being removed in order to create a ‘Supreme Court’ for the United Kingdom. Now Lord Hope, the so-called ‘Deputy President’ of this unnecessary institution (we have a fully functioning ‘Supreme Court’ already, in the form of the House of Lords), has declared that, not content with wrecking the historic interiors, he wants the address to be changed as well. ‘We all feel’, says Lord Hope, ‘that Little George Street sounds ridiculous and doesn’t give the right message. If you take out the “little” it would be fine.’ Reporting Lord Hope’s ridiculous comments, the Independent wonders how he copes with being a mere Deputy; ‘Poor old Lord Hope’, the Independent’s diarist comments: ‘Some one change the name of his office to Big House in Big Street and give him a great big desk to sit behind.’ "

The official line:

Some good news though, thank you Andrew Gayton, HBO in Norfolk, for sending it to me, is that the apparently sole remaining manufacturer of genuine wrought iron (I may come back to wrought iron and Phoenix Columns another day, one of my Subjects I On Which I can Bore For Britain) is alive and well in Yorkshire, some PDF's and stuff to read:

So, happy reading, do comment if you have anything to say, and even if you don't it's nice not to feel lonely!