To Greenwich

The Smith & Sons clock is one of my favourite Islington landmarks. When it was installed in 1906, it was a piece of shameless advertisement lightly disguised as a gift to the community but time has softened the implication and turned it into a much loved heirloom.

The Council has taken good care of it and had it refurbished several times. I believe the original movement has been replaced with an electric one.

Today, I photographed it from the bus stop in City Road where we were waiting for a 43 bus to take us to London Bridge Station.

This is Greenwich Railway Station where we arrived on a train from London Bridge.

Greenwich used to have a town hall and this tall clock tower is part of it. The Grade II listed building lost its position owing to borough reorganisation.

We took a bus to Greenwich Park. Our ultimate destination is the building in the centre background.

This is where we were going. It is a Georgian villa, situated on the border of Greenwich Park and Blackheath, known as the Ranger’s House. It’s main claim to fame today is that it is home to the Wernher Collection, a collection of art gathered by the 19th-century businessman, Sir Julius Wernher.

Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the house so I cannot show you any of the artifacts. This scan-shot front view of the house will have to do instead.

Afterwards, we walked down the hill where I stopped to take a photo of the church demurely screened by trees. It is Our Ladye Star of the Sea Catholic Church, built in 1851.

The name might strike you as odd, given that Greenwich is nowhere near the sea but it does in fact have a long nautical history, being the home of the Royal Observatory (whose position defines the Greenwich Meridian), the National Maritime Museum and the old Royal Naval College.

We sat for a while in the park until we decided that it was time for lunch,

We made our way through the grounds of the aforementioned naval institutions (above is the Royal Maritime Museum) to an eatery called the Old Brewery which is attached to the Old Naval College.

Having lunched, we walked to the Docklands Light Railway station and took the train to bank. Buses from there brought us to the clock tower once more where we finished up, as we had started this morning, in the Jusaka coffee bar.

We both felt we had done enough for today, perhaps because we had exerted ourselves yesterday, including the long walk to and from the Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Bicester

On the journey home we stopped at Bicester North, one of the stations for that ancient town.

The name of this town is of course pronounced “Bister” to rhyme with “mister”. The -cester part of the name immediately betrays it as Anglo-Saxon as it comes originally from the Latin word castrum, denoting a Roman fortress or fortified town. Where such settlements were later taken over by the Anglo-Saxons, the word mutated in their language to ceaster (with the ‘c’ pronounced as modern ‘ch’), giving -cester or -chester in many modern town names.

What the Bi- part of the name means is a different matter and no one knows for sure. Bicester has been spelt in a number of different ways in its history and these suggest a possible origin in the personal name of the person who reinhabited the town in the Anglo-Saxon period. We will never know for certain.

Birmingham and Wolverhampton

We have arrived at Moor Street Station rather than the main station, Birmingham New Street.

Moor Street is a fine old station which has, I am glad to say, been kept much in its original form.

Our first stop was here, at the Centenary Lounge, on the station, for a cup of tea. (Photo by Tigger.)

The heart of Birmingham is known as the Bullring and this sculpture is its very symbol.

Piccadilly, but not as we Londoners know it!

We stopped for lunch at an Italian restaurant and when we emerged, this was what we found.

It had startled to rain. We donned our raincoats and struck out bravely.

We passed Victoria Square, site of, among other buildings of interest, this one called the Council House.

We had had our lunch but this lesser black backed gull was about to scavenge for his. Bon appétit!

We decided to take the tram. Trams are making a comeback in many cities. They are versatile – able to travel through city streets or on repurposed suburban railway lines where they reach impressive speeds. The tram thus shares the qualities of both buses and trains.

We had hoped that this tram would carry us into Wolverhampton but this intention was frustrated by a road collision that forced the tram to stop short of its usual terminus. We left the tram at a stop called The Royal and set out on foot.

We eventually reached our destination which was Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Here are a few of the works we saw.

Likeness Guaranteed, David Mach, 1995

Moses, Philip John Evett, 1953

King Kong, Nicholas Monro, 1971

One of the galleries

Fountain, Minton, c.1880-4

If this suggests that my preferences in art, at least photographically, lie with sculpture and 3-dimensional objects, rather than with “flat art” such as paintings, then the suggestion is correct.

Leaving the gallery, we had to repeat our walk, albeit in reverse, to regain the tram stop at The Royal. Happily, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining.

This time, we stopped short of the terminus and left the tram at a stop adjacent to Snow Hill Station. As our tickets are for “Birmingham Stations” and not for a specific station we can board the London train here.

It was just as well that we did. Our train was the 17:52, right in the rush hour. We were able to find seats at Snow Hill but when the train reached Moor Street, there was standing room only.

Nearly there

This photo, taken from the train shows that clouds are gathering.

A blue sky with big white clouds alternates with a sky overcast with leaden-hued cloud cover.

That is how it is in this land where the weather is reputed to be a favourite topic of conversation. Drive a few miles further on and the weather is quite different.

We have made a stop at Leamington Spa.

This name is pronounced much as you would expect except for the first syllable which rhymes with the lem in “lemon”. The name is confidently ascribed to the Anglo-Saxon lemen-tun, “farm on the river Leam”.

The chalybeate (iron-bearing) waters here were known since Roman times and are what have given the town its designation of a spa. (The original Spa, in case you have ever wondered, was the town of that name in Belgium.)

We shall shortly arrive at our destination. More later.

Marylebone to Birmingham

Tigger has taken this week off from work and so we have a few outings planned. Later in the week we are going on a special trip – but more about that in due course.

This morning we took the bus to Marylebone Station. In a previous post, I described St Pancras as London’s most beautiful railway station but Marylebone has a charm all of its own and is one of my favourites.

In the station, I bought coffee and croissants while Tigger negotiated with one of the ticket machines. Then we boarded the 10:10 train for Birmingham Moor Street.

We have a Two Together Railcard that gives us 30% off the cost of tickets when we travel together.

The weather is cloudy-sunny and cool (17 deg C) but the forecast is for rain later.

How will we fare? See later posts!

Headstone Manor

As mentioned in my previous post, we went from Harrow to Headstone Manor. First built in 1310, when it was provided with moat, it has been altered and rebuilt since then but the core remains largely 16th-century.

Entry is through the 16th-century Small Barn (above). There you can view a film of the history of the house and its area from the Stone Age onwards.

Above is a view of part of the moat, today inhabited by ducks, coots and moorhens.

Rafters in the Small Barn.

Crossing the moat to enter the manor.

A view from one of the windows.

These are the remains of a Tudor staircase. You cannot climb it, however, because, owing to alterations to the house, the staircase just stops at the ceiling. There is nothing above it.

A scan-shot of the Great Hall. Odd bits of woodwork from various periods are revealed giving the feeling if a building being demolished rather than a building as lived in.

Revealed rafters in the Great Hall.

A scan-shot of the rear of the manor.

This venerable old tree lives at the back of the house. To be honest, I don’t know what kind of tree it is. Maybe a yew?

This building is called the Granary.

So, what was my impression of the visit? I must admit to a certain degree of disappointment. The house (Grade I listed) is no doubt old and historically interesting but the visitor, to be honest, sees little of this. What the visitor sees is a lot of rooms furnished with display boards and a few cabinets of museum exhibits. I derived little sense of a lived-in house with a long human history.

That view is perhaps unfair. What, after all, could the curators do to improve matters? Furnish the rooms in period style to give an impression, albeit fictitious, of what the house might have looked like when inhabited? Whatever is done, someone will be disappointed with it.

Would I recommend the place to others. Yes, why not? You might not share my finicky views and enjoy the visit more in consequence.