A tribute to a pond

With the whole Pastorm site, I’ve pretty much left Tamworth timehikes abandoned, the idea is to use Pastorm on Timehikes and vica versa. That’s easier said than done though.

Anyway I’m all heritaged out at the moment,so this post is taking a break from the past, sort of anyway. In fact I dislike the word heritage, it conjures up images of cream teas, country houses, and general stuffiness, there’s a place for that but can be limiting. I’m not talking about rebranding but just don’t like it. There’s a good attack and take on the word heritage in article here.

As I’m getting HISTerical with all this past business, and if I’m not careful I’m going to PAST out, I’m going to share images of a favourite place to relax of mine : the garden pond.

Despite being a tiny pond no more than 150 cm long, it’s a place to lose yourself. It’s full of life, amphibian(17 frogs, 2 toads, 20 newts and counting) insects(1 pond skater) and receives visits from wasps busily collecting water to build their paper mache nests(can actually hear the rasping noise, when they’re collecting wood) birds, and all sorts of winged life.  Exploring ponds is associated with childhood, it doesn’t have to be though, resist the social pressure to stock it with koi with a fountain and surrounded by wood chippings. Listen to the child inside you!

I highly recommend a natural pond, they are a celebration of life, isn’t it in ponds where it all begun! I know people usually stock them with fish but why not leave it as it is and watch life gradually flock to it. It’s a lot more interesting seeing what  arrives and you’re also helping out the local wildlife. Ponds in the countryside as I’ve noticed are becoming more and more scarce.

Below are some photos of the ponds I’d like to share. No it’s not the Mississippi swamp, it’s Tamworth!

their favourite corner

frog and snail

Looking for the swamp thing

view from a camera attached to a newt

the three amigos

You ain’t seen me, right

This post is an  experiment and example of how to  integrate and using the new collaborative pastorm site with your posts/ and sites


Back to a good old fashioned micro explore on Timehikes, and it doesn’t get more micro than the local housing estate; Leyfield’s and more precisely Wigginton parks whose  regal history was talked about in the post series before suburbia. For a fantastic blog on Housing estates in London there’s Love London council housing.  There’s nothing as architecturally interesting around here in the housing estates, but who knows if you look hard enough and ask the right questions…

For now back to Wiggington park. After a quick wander around the local park.( Couldn’t really go further in the sweltering heat) came upon a line of bricks poking through the leaf litter on the floor. With the frustrated archaeologist within me in full force, I proceeded to clear with a stick the surrounding foliage in a couple of minutes. The results are in the following photo.

Hmm, what is it? The bricks have mortar between them and looks the part so probably some type of structure and not just bricks thrown in. The bricks look ‘pretty old’ Quick note anyone who wants to know more about  reading the history of buildings in England, needs to know a lot about bricks, more bricks and more bricks! My first thought or hope was that it was the remains of the gate lodge at the entrance to the old Wigginton hall estate. Time to check out the maps:

1899-1904 ordnance map from Staffordshire past track(click to go to site)

Wrong location so after discarding  the lodge option started thinking that it could be some sort of culvert. The bricks are set into a ridge could it follow on from the stream that curves round the western edge of Wigginton park?

A look at the 1887 map gives another possibility. Is that a structure leading off from  the lodge? Anyone out there who can read what that curved dash along the square  means?

1884-1885 ordnance map from oldmaps.co.uk, click on image to go to site.

As so often when looking for something on historic maps you notice other features of interest. Note the well marked with a ‘w’ next to the lodge. Also the long sliver of a pond  little further up. Explains why that spot becomes a muddy mire after a little rainfall. A pond trying to resurrect itself, it will win in the end! Could the pond have something to do with the brick structure? I’m still leaning towards the idea of a culvert, but as usual more questions than answers.

Ending the post with a photo taken on same walk  of a  stately Beech tree in Wigginton park, notice the likely ridge and furrow surrounding it.

Ok Pastorm has finally started in the Tamworth area, if its starting slow that the way I planned it; )   I hope you enjoy it that’s what’s it there for. Its an experiment, so there’ll be a lot of learning, recieving advice and ideas gratefully. Especially in first few days I will be ironing out details and issues. In the end without sounding too earnest  this “grassroots looking and creating with the past”  experiment  belongs  to  who’s  involved.

Well here is the link to Pastorm, there that wasn’t too difficult.

For anyone who’s  wondering what’s happened to the blog, well Abe and Ernst below pretty much explain my obsession with the ‘Pastorm online event’ at the moment, a few more tweaks and then just wait for that lightening strike  to come to life.

Antiques are everywhere in England, the place is going to sink if there’s any more antiques! Maybe though that’s just the perception you get after seeing the tv schedule inundated with antique auction programmes presented by dandy like characters. Anyway as this is Tamworth Timehikes, I started thinking about if there were any antiques manufactured in Tamworth?

I knew about Glascote based Canns and Gibbing the famous terracotta makers largely responsible for introducing terracotta into architecture in England and covering such famous landmarks as the natural History museum and Albert Hall London. Their story is well researched and presented on Alan and Angella´s page. What I didn´t know about though was George Skey´s Wilnecote ceramic works.

George Skey started in 1860 his enterprise and ended up making pretty much anything from clay from the site, from gas ovens to ginger beer bottles. It rapidly expanded and became one of the most  important pottery works in  the country. Anyway don´t let me tell you, take a look below at the extract from The ceramic art of Great Britain, 1878 by LLewellynn Jewit  on Wilnecote works. All the details and praise are there and saves me the trouble of typing it.

It starts off with “The Wilnecote Works, near Tamworth which rank among the……. (continued below, click to view larger or in the original link on http://www.archive.org)


A quick search for George Skey on google images and it brings up what looks like a hastily made online museum on some of the fine  products made. Click on the image to go direct to the search.

Most of what´s found on the internet apart from a few terracotta pieces in posh places like Christies are pottery flagons, beer bottles, jugs, packaging basically. A good example is this flagon below taken from ebay(click on image to go to the site) I like the flagon (not making a bid, maybe I should go for a cut for doing promotion!) and other vintage packing, storage found like medicine bottles, beer bottles, etc, etc

It turns out though I´m not the only person who likes them, theres people out there who are crazy for them and digging them up. Called dump diggers, the ideas to look for old Victorian refuse dumps and dig up vintage bottles, from poison to medicine, some of them still unopened! I can understand the attraction. It’s that same thrill of the chase, a main reason for people s reasons for doing activities like archaeology, metal detecting, mushroom collecting, the list goes on.

For a few examples of dump diggers there´s  diggers diary in the Uk and the bottle digging forum in the UK, but what I really love is the dump diggers diary from Canada. I love the effort and unashamedness about what they do, check out the bottle diggers convention(not sure about name) on one of their posts. Theres nothing furtive about it, they´re dump diggers and you know what its cool!

George Skey´s Wilnecote Works

The manufacturing place itself would have been the mecca for bottle collectors  and dump diggers around the world. Wilnecote works was a huge place and functioned from 1860 till 1936 when it was taken over by Doulton. The buildings were finally demolished in 1981. That´s the excavators going in below(click on image to go to home of photo, Staffordshire Past track)

Demolition of Doulton's

I  couldn´t write about Wilnecote works without an honourable mention of the people who actually worked there. Below a great photo of  some of George Skeys workers 1909-1915, taken from Staffordshire Past track. Wilnecote works employed up to 600 people in its heyday. That´s  huge by todays standards but remembering that the pre-war population of Tamworth was around 7,000 people that´s  a hefty chunk of the town´s population.

George Skeys, workers, Skeys Works yard, Wilnecote

Below another evocative photo from Staffspt titled Mr Kinson and his horse ´tut´ in George Skeys workyard, 1936 . He worked for George Skey as a general carter depositing the broken pots in the spoil heap behind.

Mr Kinson with his horse and cart, Skeys, Wilnecote

Aerial views of the works

Below again from Staffs past tracks, the 1899- 1903 ordnance map showing the extent of Wilnecote works served with its own tramway. The place was surrounded and built on coal mines.


The same area back in 2007. The area is partially covered by Tame Valley Industrial estate. The rest of the area is wasteland. This was a bottle diggers paradise I imagine. In the centre are some dilapidated industrial buildings were any of them old wilnecote works buildings?

Too late, this post 2007 birds eye image from http://www.multimap.com shows the industrial buildings gone and another housing estate going up. To those bottle diggers from Canada and Australia who´ve just turned up a George Skey ceramic bottle this is what the place that made them looks like now. Maybe its just me but could  have been a good idea to make a reference and tribute to what was there before, give it some sense of place and history. I feel the area really needs this, to be anchored to the area not just another estate floating in a sea of housing estates.






The blogs been quiet for a while. The reason, well apart from the big long drawn out  move from España to England and all the changes and tumult that brings with it, I´m really excited and been tinkering away with a new way of doing this whole landscape history and exploration thing online.  What does this mean?


With that grandiose title I know I’m setting the bar high but well you’ve got to reach for the stars! In the meanwhile I’m continuing to tinker away on how its going to work. It should be launched in the next few days when all will become clear. It’s a continuation of Tamworth timehikes blog, it’s the same area, with the same emphasis on the area’s history, but  it’s aiming to be collaborative, getting people  involved,more energy into it and hopefully much more.  Whatever happens its going to be exciting. It’s a first for me and will be one big learning experience.

What will happen to Tamworth timehikes?

The blog will stay open, and the blog and new online event  will feed into each other, the info, ideas and kind generous support will I hope help the new project and Tamworth timehikes will continue to ramble on in fits and starts.

Just to prove I´m serious below is the name and logo below:

Licencia de Creative Commons

more updates and explaining mixed in with long overdue posts over next few days…….

In an effort to adjust back to life in Blighty I’ve looked for similarities between life in Valencia, Spain and Tamworth, UK to little success. I’ve had to delve into the history books again to see if I could find anything similar and woe betold, there was a(sort of) bull ring in Tamworth just like back in Valencia close to my old home.

arrow pointing in direction of my old home, just out of range of the smell of bullshit, no pun intended

Bull baiting was a popular pastime in English town life from the middle ages up until the late 18th century(even later in the West Midlands) and Tamworth was no exception. It consisted basically of tying the bull to a stake in a central square and setting dogs on the animal, pretty unsavoury stuff but in its time it was actually unlawful  to slaughter the bull before being baited. Apparently it gave the bull meat more taste and the fines would have probably been a source of income for local authorities.

bull baiting scene above

This can all be testified in Tamworth, where Charles Ferrers in his resourceful Tamworth  book tells us that the book rolls of the town show us that persons had been fined for killing the animals before being  baited.He goes on to say that the ring (probably at most consisting of railings which together with stake and rope were regularly mended) was at the junction of Bolebridge street with  Coleshill and George Street with the last bull baits happening in the 17th century . George Street he later states  was actually called Bullstake street in reference to the stake used to tie the bull, before being renamed George Street in the 19th century. In looking for more details on the bull baiting I got all excited when I came across the book the history of signboards where it stated that bullrunning was practiced in Tamworth and Stamford. Yes just like the famous Pamplona bull running. This was a double discovery as bull running in England was a new one for me and that it had happened at Tamworth!!! Alas it was too good to be true, the book had mistaken Tutbury with Tamworth where a bull run was indeed practiced. Still the fact that bull running existed in England in towns like nearby Tutbury and Stamford is a great novelty fact to bring up in the conversation or maybe to think about when running like a demon down the slippery streets of Pamplona, Spain.

Getting all misty eyed and nostalgic about Valencia I went to look at the site of the old  bull ring in Tamworth, with the resulting furtively taken photo below:

Incredibly and by accident the bull ring echoed through into the present in the form of the circular brick flooring and the metal posting nearby in the modern day crossroads. Ok maybe I’m reading too much into it and it’s true if you’re  looking for coincidences you’ll find them sooner or later. Whatever though enough of mundane explanations for me it opened up the thought that ancient sites maybe could echo through to the present day through modern architectural accidents. Almost like an unconscious effort on the part of the building developers to pay tribute to old places. Former sites bending the will of modern building developments to produce phantom echos of the past. Ok there’s the idea now more proof in the Tamworth Timehikes area of what I’m thinking about:

Well how about Copes drive written about in this previous post.It’s highly botched pot holed surface with  pebbles showing through isn’t the result of an impasse between local authorities and residents, no  it’s because it’s ancientness is shining through the cracks, being  one of the oldest routes in the Leyfields housing estate.

Below in an attempt to photograph the slight dip in the ground by a house next to the ladybank, Tamworth with the river in front of it. This dip just happens to roughly correspond to the Anglo Saxon ditch surrounding the town(see previous post). Coincidence, or an echo from the past?

Anymore examples out there?