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Archive for January, 2011

While browsing the 1815 map of the Tamworth Timehikes area, I came across the name Dosthill Spa, between the then village of Dosthill and Two Gates on a bend of the river Tame and next to Dosthill house.

1815 ordnance map with orange arrow pointing out Dosthill Spa

Many of the ´discoveries´ in the blog were made by such browsing and cross referencing. It´s amazing how new information keeps coming out of these historic maps , the ease and the increasing  abundance of them online. This has resulted in an increasing backlog of places to write about. Originally I was going to try to weave routes around these places, as implied by the title ´timehikes´ but I haven´t figured out a way to put a route description with detailed descriptions of the places in one post, and then there´s my short attention span problem to contend with. Meanwhile I´ve connected a couple of routes on the googlemaps page, largely following public footpaths.

Dosthill Spa could be the perfect place for a well-earned rest for the Tamworth two, Abe and Ernst, away from guard dogs, shots, barwork, garden trespassing and more.

If the towel looks familiar it´s because it was stolen from Tamworth Holiday Inn.

Abe and Ernst are not the first to enjoy the waters of Dosthill spa. Back in 1816 there was a mention in  The life of William Hutton  F.A.S.S, 1816 accessible on google books of an excursion to the place with the words “With our friends, we made a party of pleasure to Dosthill Spa; held various conversations ; played at various games ; boated on the river.”

What is this place though and what makes it so special? There´s a clue in the Wells of Old Warwickshire by P.M and E.M Patchell written in the early 20th century in which it mentions a pair of springs one chalybeate and one strong brine, the old salt bath being between the footpath and river.

Chalybeate?

Wikipedia has a nice  entryon Chalybeate. Apparently chalybeate(salts) were all the rage in times gone by with the accommodated classes and Tamworth timehikes had it´s very own example.

picture of chalybeate springs in Tunbridge Wells in the 17th century taken from the aforementioned wikipedia entry.

The wikipedia entry goes onto explain the reasons for it´s popularity with this great quote about the health benefits  of Chalybeate baths taken from Dudley North´s physician in the 17th century which I repeat below

the colic, the melancholy, and the vapours; it made the lean fat, the fat lean; it killed flat worms in the belly, loosened the clammy humours of the body, and dried the over-moist brain.

Dosthill missed out a tourism slogan here,  ” come to Dosthill Spa and dry your over-moist brain!!!

No use for a slogan though if the spa  doesn´t currently exist? The place leads to all sorts of questions. What form did the spa have? what happened to it?

The above 1775 Yates map(from Staffordshire Pasttracks) on the left signals that the spa or ´bath´ as mentioned in the map goes back to at least the date of the map, how much further back? Was it associated with the building of the neighbouring 18th century Dosthill house. We do know that Dosthill house with it´s neighbouring curative waters was used a Spa hotel in the 19th century. In the 1899 ordnance map on the right it gets a mention as Chalybeate spa, but no idea if it was still a ´Spa hotel´

In the book Wells and springs of Warwickshire, Richardson, L, written in  1928  we can assume  that the spa or ´salt baths´were no longer in use. Here´s the quote from the book  below.

The old salt-bath is still in existence [between the footpath and River Tame west of Dosthill House], though much dilapidated, as is also a small reservoir into which ferruginous water oozes.

The spa placename appear on maps until shortly after WWII and then disappears, Whats the fate of the ´old salt bath´ Are there still physical remains of the baths next to the footpath? Maybe Dosthill Park Wildlife Group campaigning and working for bordering Dosthill park could shed light on  its fate?

I don´t know about you but I´m all for bringing the spa back, there´s a lot of over-moist brains, clammy humoured  people out there who could do with it!

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Tamworth Timehikes souvenirs

I´m giving Tamworth timehikes it´s very own souvenir section, which gives me a chance to show  my artistic dabblings or ideas on tamworth timehike themes, tongue in cheek style or not.

Here´s the first installment for the  Tamworth Timehikes souvenir shop:

Archaeological  framed section

Archaeologists use vertical cross sections to  understand the stratigraphy and interpret the development of the studied area over time.

archaeologists preparing your own section picture

Why not have your own slice of stratigraphy from your own backgarden, frame it and put it on your wall. Tell the story of the land beneath you with the help of some dirt on a wall. Archaeologists with time on their hands could fill in the details, do a bit of research yourself or simply make it up. Usually the procedure is to use a mixture of all of these.

The above section is taken from a rubbish photo I took of an earth bank bordering a stream next to the river Anker. I´ve labelled it with possible stories of events related with the section mostly made up, getting older the further down on the section,  all wrapped up in a fetching gold frame, you get the gist.

Above is a better looking section from a real archaeology excavation. You can create your own section by cutting a section in your garden, slicing it and putting it between two glass/plastic  frames label it and hey presto  ready to put on the wall( I haven´t worked out the practical details yet)

The frame is optional, here I´ve gone for a rococo style frame.

Licencia de Creative Commons

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As in the first part of a bundle of map links of forgiveness my posts are lagging far behind. There´s a lot of changes at the moment in the physical world which I´m not going into, as this blog is strictly obsessed with ´things´ of the past in the  the Tamworth area.

I´m convinced that exploring the landscape around you is a good thing all round. So to help out in this quest to explore your surroundings here are a few more links and search tools(map based tools in above mentioned post)  to use all over the country that have been really useful in this blog. All without leaving the confines of the computer screen. Even better if you accompany with exploring, asking around, research  in physical world!

Firstly there´s google books. A lot of older books sometimes dating back to the 18th, 19th centuries are published online. These older books many times are  ambitious attempts  by gentleman scholars to cover all aspects of the places, later on they become more and more specialised until today when it´s very difficult to get a book covering everything on a place. The information is too fragmented and anyway there´s too much out there.  Apart from google books which being the monster it is has the largest collections there´s www.archive.org and Project Gutenberg for example. If you´re looking for info on a place on google books the more obscure the info the better, type it into the search bar on google books and you´ll be surprised.

Hang on….This isn´t a bundle of tools it´s a ramble so back to basics

BUNDLE OF SEARCH TOOLS

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British history online is a well established establishment resource, it´s got a lot of the ambitious and extensive Victoria County History collections online. Archaeology data service have got loads of digitalized archaeology data online. For example unpublished fieldwork reports(known as grey literature) Or the ADS special collections.  Used quite a lot in the blog are the complete volumes from 1 to 50 of the society for medieval archaeology. On the Archi search database you can find 1000´s of sites all round the UK and is continually being added to. Full access is around 24 pounds subscription annually. Apart from these more instititional resources there´s a great and mushrooming number of all number of sites, forums, organisations on all types of remains of the remains and ways of enjoying it. Abandoned site exploration forums(known as urbex) like derelict.co.uk are extremely active, and a lot of people involved accompany their passion with great photography for example sleepy cities. Their´s more specific sites on particular type of past remains   for example UKMillsghost signs,(handpainted wall signs) milestone  society, and  forgotten relics on remains of Britain´s industrial past. Could also be localised heritage like the very active Midlands heritage forum.

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and not forgetting wikipedia;

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Since writing this series on underground spaces(see  underground categories) in the Tamworth area, I´m seeing and imagining  tunnels, subterranean spaces everywhere!

Here´s a short incomplete  list of some of the places I´ve seen, read or heard about subterranean spaces the last mont; Exploration Forums like Dark places and organisations Subterranea Britannica.Queries about rumours of underground tunnels in nearby Lichfield. Blogs entries like this entry  from the  Cheltonia blog which includes  underground cellars, also the oft cited bldgs blog and it´s  fascination with some fascinating subterranean worlds. Then just when I want to get away from it all I start seeing it in films I´ve recently seen , Hellboy 2, Fantastic Mr Fox on and others I can´t remember right now.  Even when I go on to a visit of the San Miguel de los Reyes  Monastery here in Valencia where on betting that tunnels will be mentioned,  the guide overheard me and sure enough went onto to tell the story of escape tunnels excavated beneath the monastery into the fields when the monastery was used as a prison in and after the Spanish Civil war and until the 60´s.

The San Miguel monastery above where the Great escape style tunnel breakout took place. The escapees actually got away with it and were never caught! The guide mentions that he knew one of the prison guards who was there when the escape happened. The tunnel story should be an integral part of the tour because as everybody knows people love tunnel  stories.

The reasons for popularity of underground spaces are many. They appeal to our sense of adventure and  mystery, they captivate and repel us with  fear, filth, darkness. They are metaphors for other worlds, alternative worlds and in past cultures provided the gateway to the other world(s),

Whatever the reasons I´ve got to stop and move on with this  subterranean fixation, so this is the last post(for now) on underground spaces in the Tamworth Timehikes area.

It´s the new year(Happy New Year!), days are getting longer, the sun is shining(at least in Valencia) so it´s time for Abe and Ernst to step out from the shadows of  the underworld, and  onto exploring the surface world, but just before couldn´t resist  one last dip  into  the depths of the underworld of Tamworth Timehikes.

Secret tunnel in the village of Hints.

In proof that secret tunnels can even be used as a selling point, Paul Carr estate agents advertise the 1,500,000 pound  Vicarage in the village of Hints with the possibility of your very own  secret tunnel included between the vicarage known as Chadwick house and the church of St Bartholomews.

The vicarage and rebuilding of the present church of St Bartholomews  was built and paid for by the cotton entrepeneur James Chadwick. Did this building work  include a secret tunnel? Is this one of those follies that the landed gentry loved so much in pre-television days?

hypothetical route of the secret tunnel taking the shortest route between the two places.

If it was a rich man´s whim then the 50 metre stretch of tunnel would be an expensive and labour heavy whim. Sure enough I´ve enquired about the secret tunnel story and it´s source with the estates agents with no response. Rising to the challenge I´ve sent out emails to Hints forum, church of St Bartholomew and have been met with a wall of silence. This could be due to it a) being some masonic millennium old secret,b)no interest in pesky emails about tunnels(can´t be true) c)went to wrong person, or d) simply haven´t got round to answering the query. Take your pick.

Could be part of the thought that Hints is apart from being a beautifully located place is to my eyes a zealously guarded  private place. It´s long drives with houses out of view, narrow high hedged roads, lack of a public space(no pub) all indicate it, to me anyway. It´s private architecture  is so well conceived that the village seems to be almost invisible! The annual Hints Open garden festival only accentuates the privacy of the place the rest of the year. Hints is by no means unique in these characteristics, it´s in fact the norm for the affluent rural english countryside.

Old Tamworth town hall dungeon

The above picture is taken from the superb  English Buildings blog, which pays homage to the architecture of old town hall. The 1701 building with later additions is indeed a very special building but here as is becoming tradition straight onto it´s underground credentials.

The ever reliable and highly detailed  1875 The History Town and Castle by Charles Ferrers describes the underground dungeon beneath the town hall built in 1812. He describes the dungeon as small, but dry and clean and goes onto say that prisoners are usually removed to the jails in the county-towns with very little delay.

I have a very murky memory of someone talking about an entrance to an underground space at the town hall. This may have fed in part to the story of Tamworth´s ley tunnel from the castle to church. Secret tunnel stories do  seem to usually have something tangible in their origins. Most towns have these stories and could be folk  ways of explaining long forgotten subterranean spaces like long ale cellars, medieval conduits,  and in some cases real genuine tunnels!

The mining areas and coal fields of Kettlebrook,Glasgote, amington, Polesworth.


I´m showing the above 1899 ordnance map taken from Staffordshire past  track(click here for the site)to show that this area was riddled with mining activity.The disused collieries and associated shafts are everywhere and it must be a swiss cheese of mines beneath the area! Most if not all are infilled , shafts tapped but is there an abandoned underworld of old machinery, shafts and tunnels beneath the extensive housing estates that will outlive what´s above?

Underground railways from the 1950´s at the now defunct Birch Coppice colliery taken from windows on Warwickshire shows an underground world created and worked in by the miners.

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