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Posts Tagged ‘Tamworth’

On my search for ancient and venerable trees in the Tamworth area I came along this from the endless resource of Charles Ferrers Raymund Palmer´s book on Tamworth. When Charles focused on a building, boy did he focus on it, his writings on the Moathouse throw up all sorts of info as if gone through with a comb. About the trees in the long drive he´s got this to say:

“The moat house is a very large and handsome structure,……………It is approached from Lichfield street through a long avenue of noble lime-trees, of more than a century´s growth.”

The mentioned lime trees are still there and if we go by the tree´s estimated age written by Charles in 1845 that makes the trees more than 275 years old!!

The moathouse with Lime trees on either side

Knowing little about  trees I quickly googled info on Lime trees and found out that they´ve got nothing to do with limes, can indeed be very old, and you can use the flowers to make a tea for medicinal purposes, old flowers apparently having narcotic effects hmmm, interesting. The idea of using the fruits from a 270 year old tree sounds appealing to me, actually the whole idea of drinking something with great age is appealing although not the same check this out about oldest champagne found and tasted.

Anyway to know more on Lime trees known as well as tilia(the genera) take a look at this and this.

a lime tree(tillus) image with details, click to go to the link

I´m in Tamworth so will duly insert some photos of the brooding moathouse expertly framed by the Lime trees, shame I´m not the best photographer in the world, but just maybe, maybe this once.. Watch this space.

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Adding trees

A number of factors have induced me  to write this new series adding trees, especially old trees to the Timehikes blog(might even get round to adding people at some point!).

Firstly the Government crazy woodland sell off and the campaign to stop it, there´s been loads of really good arguments against it, for example Outlandish Knights blogs entry and Brownhill Bobs view on  it here on the sell off.  I haven´t got much to add, just a paranoid observation from the truncated world of Tamworth Timehikes that  the recent government´s backtracking  got me thinking that this maybe was the half-baked schemes real aim. They didn´t really think that it would work did they without huge opposition  ? Maybe it was to look like the government was ´listening´ to the people on this high-profile case, a sort of smokescreen.  Maybe I´m giving them too much credit..

Then there´s a series of post´s on Brownhills bobs blog, about the Shire oak tree, an ancient emblematic  tree that once stood in the  Stonnal area which exemplies to me  what collaborative history detective work could really do for a place, uncover, enrich with stories and memories.

Also I´ve been wanting to put a tree themed post about this for a long time.  I´m rubbish at identifying trees, get the names mixed up but I recognise trees, especially old trees are very special awe inspiring living things, unique ecological niches . There´s a great citizen science project called the Ancient tree hunt from the The Woodlands Trust, worth taking a look at.

Finally recently saw  this article in the herald about the history of Gungate road formerly known as Old Stony road. In a great bit of detective work  from Paul Barber and the article’s author(can´t find the name in the article)they recognised that a beech tree in an 1829 engraving incredibly survives till today.

This serves as a perfect introduction to ancient trees in the Tamworth area. All credit I stress for the discovery goes to the authors of the Herald article. I´m just adding the pretty pictures.

Taken from Staffordshire past track. the Engraving mentioned from 1828-29 from E.B Hamel, north view of Tamworth from Gungate. The Beech tree is on the left. In true  romantic style the scene has been given a bit of drama by enlarging the church and castle complete with fluttering flag. With some added farmer folk in the forground.

The contemporary 2010 scene, courtesy of the google streetmap car.  The Tall copper beech tree is still there on the left in the garden of Mayfield house, on the corner of croft street.  The tree´s got bigger, while the church has got smaller!

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Continuing with exploring the souvenirs side to Tamworth Timehikes. This is the latest addition to Tamworth timehikes story.The blog started with those key ingredients listed in the about page with a desire to demonstrate that even a forgotten corner can turn up all sorts of history and be as interesting in it´s own way as any place.

Went on to create some facial haired eye impaired characters called abe and ernst to accompany the explorations as I´m not actually in Tamworth!! and veered off again to create  souvenirs from the narrative of Tamworth Time hikes.

Above are Abe and Ernst at the Tamworth Timehikes stall, things aren´t going too well, so Abe or is it Ernst, (can never make up my mind who is which)have decided to put themselves up for sale.

T-shirts are an ever popular souvenir item so I´ve decided to do some T-shirt mock ups. Actually one as the other one is taken from the Tribute to the  Lichfield Transmitter entry.

Ok here goes, cue drum roll music….deder!!!

The Tamworth Timehikes t-shirts.

click to enlarge

As I mentioned before the T-shirt on the left was featured before. I love the graph putting the transmitter shoulder to shoulder with Paris, New York!! It´s got the added advantage that the Lichfield transmitter tower can be seen for miles around so it could be a souvenir t-shirt for Lichfield, Walsall, the list goes on…

The one on the right is a profile of Tamworth´s  skyline in a pulse graph style. This one is yearning for a title, something like Wake up Tamworth! but can´t decide. Any title contributions will be greatly appreciated and all profits will be shared; )

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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Found this very Victorian account of Tamworth on googlebooks called Town and Castle, by Charles Ferrers, from 1845(Click on the title to follow the link) It has a wealth of detail in where it mixes detailed history, personal accounts of discovery, local hearsay and Victorian morals/judgement. For example just love the bit in the extract below where he reprimands the builder who ´had neither the curiosity were it led to, or the courtesy to inform any person who would have explored it

You can just sense his disappointment! The extract is about the discovery of evidence for that ancient elusive subterranean passage linking the castle and church(see earlier post). That builder made sure he maintained and added to the mystery until now!

The crypt

Mr Ferrers in Town and Castle goes on to state that it´s believed that this passageway communicated with the church through the east end of the crypt. The 14th century crypt beneath the church of St Editha´s still exists but first to Ferrers account of the crypt from where the suitably gloomy sketch of the crypt is taken from.

I love the account of the crypt, see it here. It´s full of exhaustive detail with added  mock victorian gothic and romantic era atmosphere. Just read this extract  from the account

Lost to the living -surrounded by the relics of the countless dead, the horrors of whose prison-house were feebly revealed by the dim light of a solitary candle,-listening to the distant and almost stifled sound of a muffled bell – for there was a funeral in the church above- we seem to have intruded into the abode of the king of terrors

This is the same place that until recently would have rang with the sound of ´would you like more milk with that dear´ Ferrers darkly vivid account was aided by the fact as the sketch demonstrates it was receptacle of the all the bones disinterred by digging new graves in the churchyard, a sort of charnel house. By the account it sounds like the crypt was piled high with bones, and his account of removing the stacked bones to look for the mysterious subterranean passageway gives you an idea of the scale of the state of the place.

In an earlier post about tales from Hopwas. It´s mentioned in Dyotts diary that the murder victim found in the early 19th century in Hopwas quarry  was laid to rest in this same place, what a place!

As you can see from the photo taken over this summer the crypt has recently been used as a cafeteria with no bones in sight! Last year I entered the cafeteria with my girlfriend and were treated with curiosity and kindness by the staff . I remember thinking this is an amazing place for a cafeteria. My mind started whirling with the possibilities, dub nights, music lovers bar, projections on the 14th century walls, and then I came back to earth and remembered we´re in Tamworth and it´s below a working church but just if….

When the above photo was taken it had closed, and might stay as a relic of late 20th century market town cafeteria life. It closed for…wait for it…health and safety reasons to do with the steps leading down. They are perhaps the easiest steps to walk down I´ve ever seen, and without encasing the place with rubber can´t see how you could make it safer.

Abe and Ernst braving the steps to the crypt

Anyway there was no problem with us going down to have a look and the crypt is definitley worth a look! It´s a very well-preserved 14th century rib vaulted crypt built from rag stone, so typical of the few medieval structures in the area.  It´s a candidate with it´s age, past use, and gothic beauty as the best underground space in the Tamworth timehikes area, although true it´s the only one I´ve seen and contenders are welcome.

What gives it the edge though is a large well conserved 14th century painted inscription on one of the walls. As you can see from the photo below a 20th century exclamation mark has been added in the form of I think a serviette holder!

My latin is well non-existent so I left it´s translation alone until a few days ago where the power of the internet for macro-local discoveries was fully demonstrated. Town and Castle online contains a sketch of the painting with a full translation. Thankyou Charles Ferrers. Here´s the sketch and translation below.

O lord of wealth(and power)

Thou shalt not live for evermore;

Do well whilst life thou hast

If thou would´st live when death is past

Mercy Jesus Christ

Merry Christmas and  happy New Year(I added this bit)

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While googling info for the underground Tamworth timehikes series , came across this very Lovecraftesque information about a desolute field somewhere in Staffordshire  It just needs some ´race of half humans´ and Clhutlhu overtones and that’s it. It´s taken  from a history of Staffordshire By Dr Plot written in the late 18th century, here´s the excerpt below:

A laborer who was in a desolate field digging a trench came upon a large iron plate that lay beneath the dirt. The hatch was described as being large and oval with an iron ring mounted upon it. This entrance according to those that investigated lead to a large selection of tunnels, the field in located in a valley that is surrounded at both sides with trees.

Great introduction for any budding novelists out there.


Glascote Reservoir

Glascote reservoir 1 is located next to the 1979 reservoir in  Glascote in Tamworth. The post is about the first one as there exists  the possibility that it’s a contender for the finest underground space in Tamworth.

The covered reservoir shown in the 1899 Ordnance map taken from Staffordshire Past track

It was built at the high point of Victorian engineering or ´overengineering´ where many of the public works, especially sanitary and drainage systems were spectacular constructions that together with the description from History of South Staffordshire Waterworks could mean that Glascote reservoir has the potential to be an impressive underground Victorian remnant. Below is the excerpt from the book concerning the reservoir

The original Glascote Reservoir, built in 1880, held sufficient water for one and a half days supply. Constructed entirely in brickwork and totally enclosed, the roof consisted of semicircular brick arches springing from arched traverse walls, stiffened by subsidiary flat arches spaced at 13 feet one inch centres. Dimensions of the receptacle are 32.0m. x 31.7m x 4.78m deep. Top water level is 364.6 A.O.D. Built in a mining area, close to the North Warwickshire Colliery, for some years cracks had been observed in the roof and walls of thestructure which were gradually spreading, subsequently the reservoir was taken out ofcommission until remedial work was carried out.

Built entirely of brickwork with semicircular brick arches it could be similar to the reservoirs at Papplewick Pumping station built 1882-1882  at same time. Papplewick is the finest Victorian pumping station in the UK according to their website. Papplewick has been turned into a successful tourist centre. This photo below  is taken from their website, it could give an idea to what might  lie covered at Glascote:

BrownhillBob has a great report of his explorations(with photos) in the archives and on the ground  which do justice to the  now demolished Shire Oak Reservoir here, and is in fact where I got the invaluable link to the History of South Staffordshire waterworks.

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Having being inspired by this inspiring project in Nottingham, the Nottingham cave survey. A great archaeological project that demonstrates to me be what investigating the past should be all about.  It hasn´t hidden the investigation behind a curtain of academic drabness, they know it´s fun, the bastards, just look at those bikes! There´s something of the kid in all of this looking at past mysteries looking beyond the normal street level everydayness in all of this. Nothing illustrates this better than whats beneath our feet. Forgotten tunnels, underground spaces  awake all sorts of stories etc within us and is seen in all sorts of underground stories for example in the brilliantly captivating  Rats in the Walls by J.P. Lovecraft.

Tamworth obviously doesn´t have the underground complexity of cities such as Nottingham(unique sandstone caves), Birmingham never mind cities such as New York. New York has even got a whole sub-genre dedicated to its underground world populated with its own set of characters from Mole people  to sewer alligators.  Incidentally great article on BLDG´S blog on rat catching and underground world of New York.

Ley lines

Can you see the entrance below Tamworth Castle into a secret world of ancient sects? I´m not telling

Tamworth and the Timehikes area has a much a more manageable underground world but not without its own mysteries. I remember as a kid messing around on the castle mount which then had the advantage for kids messing about of being hidden by trees. We were intrigued by the doorway below the castle and remember hearing stories being recounted about how it was the start of a tunnel which connected the castle with St Editha´s church. It was locked by barred gate and peering in I remember seeing the passageway filled  with rubble which with my imagination I´m sure I remember complete with  bones and skulls sticking out. How the hell I remember this I don´t know! One of the more intrepid explorer friends even proposed trying to get in and exploring further,  If my memory serves me right it´s the same guy who I was  saddened to read over Summer was involved in the operation Nemesis drug raids. Cruel world.

This Goonies flavoured childhood memory(incidentally goonies adventures have secret tunnels too!) introduced this legend of a tunnel between St Editha´s and the castle. When the legend came about I don´t know and what substance it has I don´t know either. The story of a secret tunnel though is by no means isolated and in fact forms part of the denominated folklore element  Leys tunnels.I´ve only seen this term on wikipedia but I think it´s an appropiate term for all those stories of secret and lost tunnels.  It seems most towns in the United Kingdoms  and overseas  have their version, Nottingham cave survey has actually confirmed it´s own legendary tunnel, see this link.

Going back to those childhood memories I remember that the ruined gateways leading into the castlegrounds presented a couple of hidden away doorways which I connected with the doorway on the mount. Apart from this distant childhood hypothesis I have this to go on from John Harpers page, which I´ve copied and pasted below:

As the demolition men tore down these 18th century buildings, they came across an old tunnel heading out under George Street from beneath one of the shops.  Some suspected that it may have been a long-lost medieval passageway leading from the castle to St. Editha’s Parish Church.  Local people have long believed the tunnel to exist, but as yet, there is no historical or architectural proof.  The George Street tunnel was probably just a cellar dug out to provide extra storage space.  But, as they developers were anxious to press on without archaeologists poking their noses in, the tunnel was simply blocked up with little or no investigation.

So there really is local hearsay about a long-lost tunnel! fascinating. Whatever it´s truth the secret tunnel serves  this blog as a sort of   doorway to that mysterious  captivating slightly creepy underground world  of abandoned cellars, sewers, sealed spaces that could lie below the area. Maybe it could even explain the rat problem in the castlegrounds!

Tamworth´s long lost medieval tunnel according to me.

Now onto the  first of a series on the  underground world of Tamworth.

The cellars of the Old Stone Cross

The old Stone Cross pub on Church Street, Tamworth has got a long history, which includes very old cellars. The heritage pubs of Tamworth initiative has a picture of the cellars  here and heaps of info on the story of the pub,including the Rolling Stones! This post is strictly focused on the underground though. The cellars according the HER entry date back amazingly to the early 16th century.The listed building entry even mentions Tudor Rose bosses on the vaulting. The place looks like it’s a candidate for the underground gem of Tamworth. Are there any other cellars with histories below old pubs of Tamworth?

Abe and Ernst got a part time job in the Old Stone Cross to take a better look at the old cellars, all for the cause.

This is the first and most tangible entry in a series Abe and Ernst explorations of the possibilities of underground Tamworth!

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