Time travel

In the quaint old town of Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, are some reminders of olden times, that, with a little imagination permit you to travel through time to a medieval past and even beyond the Norman Conquest.

In the Barton Grange Country Park, which nestles between the Kennet & Avon Canal and River Avon, is Barton Grange Farm, featuring a medieval tithe barn.

The plaque reads:

Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust
A grange of the Abbess of Shaftesbury who was given the land in 1001 by King Ethelred. Since the 1530’s it has been in private ownership and was a working farm until 1971. In 2001 the Preservation Trust bought and then restored the yard and the four smaller buildings.

The old tithe barn really is quite impressive.

A pity there were no convenient people for show scale!

One of the lecterns reads:

The Great Barn
This Tithe Barn or Great Barn was built in the early 14th century as part of the manor farm of Bradford-on-Avon which belonged to the nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey.
This barn was used to store the ‘tithe’ – agricultural produce given by local people to support the church.
The manor and the farm belonged to the abbey until it was dissolved in 1539 during Henry VIII’s Suppression of the Monasteries. The barn later passed through the ownership of several families. By the early 20th century it was in poor repair and no longer needed for agricultural use. However, the building’s historical importance was recognised and in 1914 Charles EH Hobhouse gave the barn to the Wiltshire Archaeological Society.
The Wiltshire Archaeological Society carried out urgent repairs to the building in 1914-15 and in 1939 the Society transferred its ownership of the barn to the Ministry of Works (which later became English Heritage).

A second lectern reads:

A Grand Construction
The Bradford-on-Avon Tithe Barn was constructed to a very high standard and built to last. It features finely finished masonry of local limestone and an extraordinary raised ‘cruck’ roof.
The barn is about 51 metres long and 10 metres wide. It is divided into 14 bays by buttresses on the outside and there are two wings formed by four porches which project to the north and south. The great doors would have been kept shut with bars across to keep them closed. An inventory of 1637 shows that of the 21 keys for the farm, two were for the ‘great barn’, probably for the side doors into the north porches.
The barn retains its magnificent original roof which was extensively repaired by the Ministry of Works in the 1950s.
Several of the other medieval farm buildings on the site still survive. The West Barn was rebuilt and is maintained by the Bradford-on-Avon Preservation Trust. Today it houses an exhibition which tells the story of the manor farm.

General shot of most of the farm buildings.  The Tithe Barn is on the left, and the West Barn centre.

Entrance is free and it is easy to get to.  Well worth a visit.

Further back in time to come …


A postcard from Carlton Miniott

(I began writing this on Friday last:  please bear with me.)

st lawrence carlton miniott
St Lawrence, Carlton Miniott, North Yorkshire.

“Where?!”, I hear you chorus. Continue reading “A postcard from Carlton Miniott”

Joan Jackson: Artist

Followers may recall this painting of number 43 Chapel Street, Brownhills.

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Rear view of 43 Chapel Street, Brownhills, by Joan Jackson.

This original oil painting was based on a photograph, probably black and white, taken before Joan and her husband were forced to move after the house was condemned in about 1967.

Recently, I received a request from Wendy Cooke, who wrote: Continue reading “Joan Jackson: Artist”

Down on the Watercress Line

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Drive mechanism on loco No 92212 Cheltenham

Last Thursday, I had a free day and cast about for something interesting to do.  On the road atlas I noticed a heritage railway that seemed reachable.  This turned out to be the Mid-Hants Railway, aka the Watercress Line.  This railway has featured in Michael Portillo’s Great Railway Journeys, a series of BBC TV documentaries about railways in Britain.  Repeats crop up from time to time.  The name derives from the role of the railway in transporting watercress from Hampshire up to London, where, in Victorian times, it was sold by street vendors in small packets.  It was a source of vitamins and general goodness, essentially a health food, for people whose diet was lacking in basic nutrition. Continue reading “Down on the Watercress Line”

Homage to Sugar

Today’s phonetic alphabet goes … Romeo, Sierra, Tango, but in the 1940s S was for Sugar.  In this post S-Sugar is a Lancaster bomber with a long list of raids.  My connection is that my uncle, Leading Aircraftman Frank Dennis, serviced the electrics and instruments on this very aircraft.  I blogged about this in Sugar Survives!.

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Lancaster bomber S-Sugar

I prefer this dark, sinister and menacing image of a night-time assassin, but a bit more detail can be seen in the next, adjusted image.  In the hangar the lighting is quite low and the underside in shadow, as it would have been when setting off on a raid, with only starlight or non-full moonlight.  The people serve to show just what a monster this was.  The wingspan was 102 ft (31 metres).

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Lancaster S-Sugar, brighter.

Uncle Frank never mentioned Grand Slam, so I suspect he never saw one, as it was expensive and used sparingly on the most difficult targets – see board below.

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Grand Slam. Barnes Wallis designed this 22,000 lb “earthquake” bomb to bury itself and destroy foundations of large structures.
Information board about Avro Lancaster.
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Lancaster bomb bay with blockbuster bomb, at 12,000 lb, also designed by Barnes Wallis.


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S-Sugar, scale and unit markings.
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S-Sugar, brief history, information board.


In its long career this Lancaster carried two sets of unit markings and three different designs of unofficial nose art work. These drawings show the aircraft in No. 83 Squadron markings as Q-Queenie and No. 467 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force as ‘S-Sugar’. The photographs illustrate the nose art work.

Whilst with No. 83 Squadron the aircraft carried a painting depicting a devil with the words “Devils of the Air”. On moving to No. 467 Squadron RAAF, ‘Q-Queenie’ was recoded ‘S-Sugar’ and received a fresh nose decoration of a kneeling nude supporting a bomb. Finally, whilst based at Waddington, it acquired the bomb-log and Goering’s foolishly extravagant claim.

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“No enemy plane will fly over the Reich territory”.  Herman Goering.

Sadly, the 467 Squadron badge is not on display, and although I reproduce the famous 617 “Dambusters” Squadron badge below, there is no connection, except the “Lanc”.

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Badge for 617 “Dambusters” Squadron.  Apres moi le deluge.

Clearly, the RAF Museum at Hendon is not just about this one aircraft.  The exhibits are well presented, with lots of explanatory material, and it is well worth a visit.  Entry is free, but you will have to pay £3 or £4 for parking.  The nearest tube stop is Colindale on the Northern Line.  Some rebuilding work is going on in anticipation of the centenary of the RAF in 2018, so some exhibits are not available.  I will return!

St Albans

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Nave, St Albans Cathedral; among the longest in Europe.

On Sunday I hopped on the train to St Albans City.  I am fairly well-travelled in England, but had, for no good reason I can think of, not visited this ancient city before.  Continue reading “St Albans”