Entertaining HM Revenue & Customs staff at Custom House open house day

I’ve left it too late now to report on all of our Open House London visits. I can’t, however, miss the opportunity to tell you about our visit to the Custom House on the banks of the Thames, near the Tower of London.

Currently one of the many offices of HM Revenue & Customs. There’s been a Custom House on the site for 2,000 years to collect taxes on the importing and exporting of goods. London benefits from its tidal and navigable river, and in the middle ages it was the chief commercial port of Britain, with many hundreds of ships lined up on the Thames waiting for duty to be paid prior to unloading

The Custom House was the headquarters of Customs & Excise, its officers made sure duties were paid, and tracked down people who avoided payment. They still do. Customs officers happily explained to visitors the ways people tried to avoid paying duty, and their successes in securing convictions of smugglers.

The Custom House is thought to be the fifth on the site. Mostly built in the 1820’s, with some rebuilding as late as he 1960’s. The important face of the building is that facing the river, to impress captains and ships crew. A thoroughly entertaining visit – do visit at the 2017 Open House days as Revenue & Customs will be moving to other premises in the years ahead.


The birthplace of British tourism

We’ve been away for a few days visiting friends in Herefordshire.

Last Friday we all walked along the banks of the River Wye, near Symonds Yat, also taking in the picturesque view of the Wye from the Yat Rock. This area is credited with being the birthplace of British tourism. It’s easy to understand why, when walking along the Wye valley and experiencing the view from Yat Rock. The variety of trees, flora, and fauna – lots of evidence of wild boar rooting around for grubs – is one of the attraction. All set against the charms of the River Wye itself. A good long walk gave us an appetite that was satisfied at Saracens Head pub in Symonds Yat.

This from the Wye Valley AONB website describes the beginnings of tourism in Britain,

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries it was fashionable to take a boat tour down the Wye Valley, to view its romantic sites and picturesque landscape. ‘Tourists’ dined at specific locations, took walks to particular viewpoints and visited specific romantic ruins, making the ‘Wye Tour’ one of the first ‘package holidays’!

Much of the demand was a direct result of a book, the first tour guide to be published in Britain in 1782, “Observations on the River Wye and Several Parts of South Wales”, by William Gilpin.

Here are a few photos – just a few, although I took plenty.

Open House London visit to Spring Grove House

The Open House London objective is “to promote public awareness and appreciation of the capital’s building design and architecture, including it’s open spaces. The intention was to open up London’s splendid buildings to the general public who don’t otherwise have access. We saw this as a way of helping the wider community to become more knowledgeable, engage in dialogue and make informed judgements on architecture.”

I mentioned in an earlier post the four properties that we visited this year. This is a brief report on our visit to Spring Grove House, Isleworth an elegant late Victorian house that now forms part of the West Thames College campus.

Sir Joseph Banks, the eminent botanist who travelled to the South Seas with Captain Cook on the Endeavour, leased Spring Grove House as his main country residence until his death in 1820. Later owners extended the property, although the house was demolished by the new owner Andrew Pears, the soap manufacturer, who built the current property. Below is from the Archifacts sheet and history by Peter Rowlands,

Spring Grove House is an excellent example of late Victorian architecture and interior design. The ground floor rooms retain many original features: panelling, stained glass, mosaic flooring, plaster ceilings, and fireplaces.

Undoubtedly the most impressive of the Pears rooms is the Winter Garden. It is structurally most elegant with the oval girders beginning from buttresses that neatly divide the round windows before soaring to the roof. The pièce de resistance, the marvellous, eastern inspired alcove with its wall mosaics and intricate iron work with surrounds.

A scholarly and readable review of the Brexit referendum

the-english-revoltI’ve read numerous articles analysing the result of the EU Referendum in June. I missed this one The English Revolt by Robert Tombs in the New Statesman on July 24th. While it’s a long article, it’s an excellent account of why we ended up voting to Leave the EU. Here are a few snippets from the article.

Worst of all, [Remain voters] main argument – whether they were artists, actors, film-makers, university vice-chancellors or prestigious learned societies – was one of unabashed self interest: the EU is our milch-cow, and hence you must feed it. This was a lamentable trahison des clercs. The reaction to the referendum result by some Remain partisans has been a monumental fit of pique that includes talking up economic crisis (which, as Keynes showed, is often self-fulfilling) and smearing 17 million Leave voters as xenophobes. This is both irresponsible and futile, and paves the way to political marginalisation.

Many Europeans fear that a breakdown of the EU could slide into a return to the horrors of the mid-20th century. Most people in Britain do not. The fundamental feature of the referendum campaign was that the majority was not frightened out of voting for Leave, either by political or by economic warnings. This is testimony to a significant change since the last referendum in 1975: most people no longer see Britain as a declining country dependent on the EU.

Fancy joining the chorus of Park Opera’s production of Rigoletto?

Park Opera, a friendly opera group based at South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell, is looking for chorus singers to join their production of Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi

Their fully staged production will be from Wednesday 22nd to Saturday 25th February 2017 at The Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, RG12 4PA

The company say the principal roles are fully cast, though additional chorus members will be most welcome. If you’re interested in participating in this exciting opera, contact Park Opera’s Secretary, Sue Mainwaring, M: 07968 197154, E: captmainwaring@aol.com.

Rehearsals are held on Thursdays at 8.00 pm in the Recital Room at South Hill Park Arts Centre. Here’s Park Opera’s description of Rigoletto, Verdi’s own favourite opera.

This powerful story of love and betrayal tells of Rigoletto, the unhappy and deformed jester at the court of the charming but immoral Duke of Mantua. When the Duke seduces and then cruelly abandons Rigoletto’s innocent daughter Gilda, the jester vows to avenge her honour, but his vengeance goes horribly wrong because Gilda still loves her worthless seducer.

Verdi’s magnificent score matches the drama with a continuous stream of glorious and familiar tunes, including the sublime Quartet (made famous in the film “Quartet” starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly), and the show-stopping tenor aria “La donna è mobile”. The opera is set in the splendour of Renaissance Italy, with gorgeous period costumes, superb soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Surrey Police Neighbourhood Watch crime bulletin for Surrey Heath: September 2016: Update 4

The Surrey Police Neighbourhood Watch team report on recent thefts, burglaries, and criminal damage in Surrey Heath in their latest Neighbourhood Watch Bulletin,

  • Surrey PoliceCrime No.45160082487 – On 19/09/16 between 12.00 and 16.00, at Avenue Sucy, Camberley, suspect entered insecure front door whilst occupant was asleep and removed property.
  • Crime No.45160082565 – On 20/09/16 at 09.55 at Mytchett Road, Mytchett. Attempt burglary dwelling – Suspect failed to gain access through window, but has caused damage in their attempt.
  • Crime No.45160082648 – On 20/09/16 between 08.30 and 13.00 at Windle Close, Windlesham. Letterbox cover has been ripped off front door breaking it.
  • Crime No.45160082872 – On 20/09/16 between 07.15 and 08.20 at Ambleside Close, Mytchett. Pedal cycle stolen from rear garden.

Windlesham British Legion’s Battle of the Somme Centenary Charity Concert

windlesham-british-legionMarking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme Windlesham British Legion and the Gordon Singers are holding a wonderful evening of musical entertainment.

The Charity Concert on Saturday evening 15th October 2016 at St John the Baptist Church, Windlesham, starts at 7.30 pm, with all proceeds going to the annual Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

For tickets, priced at £7,  please contact either the Branch Secretary, Danuta Allen on 01276 502123, or John Grant on 01276 479189, or Linda Booth on 01252 816381, or Andrew Hill on 01276 453289.