Archive for the ‘Exploration kit’ Category

The subject of the woodhouse, Hopwas everyones favourite abandoned house in the woods has flickered back into life on the internet after photos were published on the Hopwas Appreciation society Facebook page of the empty space where the Woodhouse once stood. I don´t want to sound like a broken record though and wallow in despair at what could have been.  Instead I´d like to take the opportunity to quickly review  my desperate last-ditch attempt to save the Woodhouse last August(view previous posts)and see what lessons can be learned from it, what I did right, what I did wrong and hopefully make  a small contribution to  other people bent on saving a piece of integrity in the landscape from the jaws of uniformity  and soulless sanitisation.

Believe in what you´re doing

Starting off with an obvious one, but fundamental as it´s hard work, trying to save stuff, especially starting off by yourself!

Take action quickly

As soon as I got the news about the imminent demolition from Midlands Heritage Forum, my first thought was “sneaky bastards trying to demolish this amazing place behind everyone’s back, I´ll show them,” they demolished it anyway, I made them sweat though. Use that anger as an energy, but be clear-headed about your strategy, I didn´t do the last bit.

Have clear argument

Before shouting your mouth off, have an argument, why shouldn´t they destroy the place, what are the alternatives, . That was pretty easy with the woodhouse  (remember to back argument up when you can with  examples, expert advice)

Get expert support

This was the bit I did best, sending out emails to experts found through authors, university departments I managed to start a conversation with Dianne  Barre, expert on historical  garden landscapes  in Staffordshire, who gave me invaluable info, and was equally angry about the situation. This has the benefit of validating your campaign, and the experts using their contacts.  Also got support from the Georgian society, who even went down to see the place, and the advice from SAVE Britain´s heritage . Expert advice should help in the next bit,  spot listing with English Heritage.

Apply for spot listing with English Heritage

After contacting various people in the council, this was the only course of official action I could really take to try to protect the buildings. The application was done online, the people at English Heritage were helpful, they take cases seriously. By indicating that it was going to be imminently destroyed the application process went quickly and the decision took a couple of weeks after inspections at site and written reports were made. Deep down though I felt I was too comfortable about the whole process, trusted in it too much, in the end the decision was taken by too few people…. really you should..

Make noise to get support

This should be a key part to get more people involved, put the pressure on the decision makers, and share the campaign, you can´t do it all by yourself, the idea is to get the juggernaut rolling, then  share the pain and hopefully joy at the end! Of course nowadays with so many online facilities and so much info, so much to care about, this is the age of campaigning for a good cause! This is the bit where I failed I think, of course I didn’t have much time, it was all last-minute, but admittedly I wasn´t savvy enough in creating that noise, this is what I should have done:

Local media campaign

Otherwise it´s hard that people are going to know about it,  this includes physical local newspapers down to their online versions and the profusion of very active blogs, sites,community pages. My efforts consisted of a letter to the Tamworth Herald and a piece put together by the guys at Lichfield Blog.  A good start but should have been more sustained. Should have talked  to editors, try to include article, could have even gone regional, spice things up a bit with ghost stories, etc. Again though can´t do it all by yourself so important to get people involved by:

social media

Start Facebook group get friends signed up to it,  use twitter(got to get round to this) uses comments on blogs, forums etc. Apart from a call out on the Hopwas Appreciation Society facebook page and Midlands Heritage forum I failed miserably in this part, never again!

Use what you´ve got already, copy, repeat, modify.(above a picture used before of abe and ernst campaigning)

Get in touch with famous people

Don´t laugh, this is the  celebrity age, it could be good for their PR and apparently Sir Bob Geldoff visited the woodhouse! really. Obviously the idea would be somebody with a link with the area and who gives a shit about the subject!

On the ground activity

Don´t get entranced by the media buzz, a lot of social media makes you imagine small nations are behind you, but the online noise has to be accompanied by action on the ground, in the local area, phoning and meeting local movers, connecting with local associations/ initiatives which could share the same objectives. This is really important and something I didn´t do much of apart from trying to contact the enigmatic Friends of Hopwas association! This time though  I´ve got an excuse, I live hundreds of miles away!


I don´t know if any of the above would have saved the woodhouse but taking the above approach would have done it´s bit to increase  awareness among people of whats around them, what people are losing, get people involved and go a small way to creating a sense of place in the area. Social media is creating  a real chance here for another more informed democratic approach to our surroundings  and making  collective connected decisions about it ,     now  for me that would be progress.

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Historic Books online

This post is the first in  taking on the challenge I put out on a previous post, about putting resources out there and info in aiding the exploration of a given landscape and material for different ways of interacting with that landscape.

In this post it´s historic books found online and free. This post will be under construction all this week finding the time to add the online book links on the Tamworth Timehikes area to the list, correcting typos, etc.

How historic books help us look at landscapes differently

They Provide an invaluable peek at the area in the past, a snapshot, overview with all sorts of information to compare and contrast. They also show how the writers viewed the place and it´s people, how they interacted with it. We can even relearn ways of enjoying the landscape.  It´s a chance to go for a walk with the writer around the place, hear what they have to say and show you, a conversation on your surroundings bridging centuries!

Where and How

It´s amazing what´s out there, it´s not always easy to find, but like all discoveries it´s a rewarding experience when you find it and yes being free definitely adds something. Inevitably googlebooks is the big one. All sorts of 19th and 20th century travel writing, geology etc books are out there. It´s a great resource and means that the book is transported and transformed from some dusty book archived in a basement in an American East coast University onto the bright screens of the some sleek 21st century device. I´ve never worked out how google book searches, and most of the finds have been through randomly entering a couple of key words like cellar and Polesworth and with a bit of luck finding a hidden gem. Like most worthy ventures it takes time, the right feeling and perseverance. Another digitalized book goliath is www.archive.org. A great resource with nice looking viewing methods, found most of the real historic books on this page right back to the 16th and 17th centuries. I find it easier to search on this site too. Theres a lot more digitalized book archives out there like Project Guthenburg but haven´t had much luck in finding books on the Tamworth area. The real hard and rare  finds are the ones found through maybe a community webpage, blogs, forums, randomly finding it through links, these  are the eldorado of the online books and extremely rare, but doesn´t mean you shouldn´t try.

The Tamworth Timehikes historic online book list (so far)

The Tamworth area although forgotten in a lot of areas is actually particularly rich in online books given it´s historic location on the borders of the counties of Warwickshire and Staffordshire meaning it often appears in accounts of both counties. Of course my blinkered explorations means I can´t compare it with other areas of England. Click on the book images below to go to the original source. The list is ordered chronologically indicating the page reference to the Tamworth  area when possible.

The first account chronologically of Tamworth is The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543, Edited by Lucy Toulmin Smith, 1907. The account on Tamworth starts on pages 103 and lasts a couple of pages.

The antiquities of Warwickshire illustrated, William Dugdale.1656.

Account of Tamworth and Warwickshire side of the Tamworth timehikes area, including Polesworth, the accounts with pictures start on pages 805, Tamworth gets the treatment from page 817 onwards.

Britannia, by William Camden, 1674?, short excerpt on Tamworth is in the Staffordshire chapter, which you have to click on.

A survey of Staffordshire, with a description of that county, Sampson Erdeswick, 1820. Extract on Tamworth starts on page 322 (392 on the archive page) originally written in 1723

A topographical history of Staffordshire, William Pitt, 1817, pages on Tamworth start on page 139

School day memories of adventures including time in the Tamworth area from prolific writer and spiritualist William Howitt. A real gem of a find, adventures in Tamworth start on p259

The Boy´s Country- Book, William Howitt, 1839

The oft cited and extremely useful The history of the town and castle of Tamworth:in the county of Stafford and Warwick, Charles Ferrer Palmer, 1845.

The Wanderings of a pen and pencil, F.P Palmer, Alfred Henry Forrester, 1846.

Another luxury find is this charming travel book.   Accounts of Tamworth and especially Warwickshire side including Pooley, Polesworth all nicely illustrated start on pages 71.

The hunting counties of England, their facilities, character, and requirement, Brooksby, 1882. not much on the area, (South Staffordshire description starts on p224) adding this hunting book for varietyies sake

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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



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.


and not forgetting wikipedia;

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My posts are pretty non-existent at the moment, even slower than usual. I´m a bit overwhelmed at the moment hope to get back to more Abe and Ernst adventures and musings in the macro-macro world of tamworth timehikes soon. Meanwhile I´ll leave this post as a bundle of links about online maps and tools used in Tamworth Timehikes that can be used equally in other places in UK for having a deeper look at the landscape´s history.

Abe and Ernst taking time out from Timehikes

Some possible future and past routes around the area

Well first you´ve got online maps.co.uk. They´ve recently updated their site and have now got maps of the UK from around 1888 to the 1970´s including Soviet cold war maps! It´s got a nice map based search interface too. Staffordshire Past track has got a search map section with Yates 1775 Staffordshire map on scale 2(pretty much the earliest close-up survey of Staffordshire) On scale 1 you´ve got the 1899-1903 ordnance map on view. On vision of Britain through time website you´ve got the Ordnance Survey first Series from the 1830´s. An extremely valuable resource is the British Library´s effort to upload the 1780-1840 one inch to a mile ordnance drawings. They are  beautiful maps and extremely useful in Tamworth Timehikes. I first came across the 1815 map from a link from the Building history map links section. It’s a pretty exhaustive list of map sources and worth taking a look at. Historical aerial photography for free is sparse on the internet at least for England, the situations looks different for Scotland. I think it has something to do with the Old aerialphotogaphy site having the rights! What we do have though is of course Googlearth satellite imagery. One of the great things about Googlearth is that you can toggle the dates on the images, in the clock button at the top. So you can get different images in Tamworth´s case back to far away days of the late 90´s. This is really useful for checking out cropmarks etc. Bill on comments recently pointed out Flashearth, Microsofts satellite imagery platform. The images seem to have been taken at just or almost the right time of year for spotting historical cropmarks, soilmarks, etc, really useful. Geomatics group have the LIDAR images up on the web , LIDAR is amazing see through trees imaging technology that´s revolutioning  Landscape archaeology.  Apart from this, different societies, initiatives, blogs have uploaded old maps, tithe maps, photography depending on the area. So go ahead and do some intrepid exploring from the comfort of your chair. Who knows the lost city of Z could be right next to the local Tescos.

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