Visiting a museum of Americana near Bath

It’s always good to experience something new, and so it was that last week, in a party from Camberley & District Probus Club, we visited the American Museum and Gardens at Claverton Manor, near Bath.  Here’s their description of the museum.

With its remarkable collection of folk and decorative arts, the Museum shows the diverse and complex nature of American traditions. The American Museum takes you on a journey through the history of America, from its early settlers to the twentieth century. It is the only museum of Americana outside the United States, and was founded to bring American history and cultures to the people of Britain and Europe.

The Museum is located in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with spectacular views over the Limpley Stoke Valley and the River Avon. The grounds total some 125 acres, of which 35 are open to visitors.

My report is a snippet of some of the Museum’s presentations of American living during the 18th and 19th centuries. Also for 2019 the Museum has a temporary display in the Exhibition Gallery of Kaffe Fassett’s ‘Quilts In America’ and Thomas Kellner’s ‘All Shook Up’ photo montages. The quilts will be the subject of a separate report, coming shortly.

The scenes of the parlours of American life contain high quality items from the actual homes they seek to represent, which give a fascinating insight into American life. Well worth a visit, for the extraordinary high quality of the exhibits throughout the Museum. Oh, and the café is good too.

It’s a museum and gardens. The planting schemes are a delight, in talking with the gardeners we learned that they’re planting 32,000 bulbs, many of which are Alliums, and Muscari. Last year they planted 36,000 bulbs, surely making this a garden to visit at any time of the year. Here are my photo snippets,

Attending the first of the 2019-20 winter lecture series of the Surrey Industrial History Group

Surrey Industrial History Group (SIHG) holds fortnightly lectures on industrial archaeology and similar topics at Church House Guildford, 20 Alan Turing Road, Guildford GU2 7YF.

Yesterday evening was the the first of the 44th evening lecture series, and the topic was ‘Sopwith Aviation Company and its aircraft’.  I learned that the company began in 1912 from small beginings and grew to providing 25% of all British military aircraft in WW1. With demand for aircraft for the war ending in 1918 the company struggled on until 1920 and went into voluntary liquidation. What suprised, from the lecture, is the pace of the expansion of aircraft production and the rapid improvements in aircarft design.

Here’s part of the brief history of Sopwith taken from Kingston Aviation, You can read more about Sopwith HERE too.

Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith taught himself to fly in 1910 and by early 1912 had his own school of flying at Brooklands. His innovative engineer Fred Sigrist built them an aircraft which was purchased by the Admiralty. Needing a factory to build further orders, Sopwith Aviation moved into a Roller Skating Rink in Kingston upon Thames  with less than 20 employees. Their brilliant Australian pilot, Harry Hawker helped to design and test the aircraft. Mostly in their 20s, the innovative Sopwith team developed better and better aircraft.

The magnificent 7 bridges over the River Tyne in Newcastle and Gateshead

That there are seven bridges over the River Tyne within two kilometres is the magnificence, not the individual magnificence of each bridge.

On Saturday in last weekend we spent the day in Newcastle upon Tyne. I’ve long wanted to visit each of the bridges over the River Tyne, either walking or driving over them. Two are railway bridges with no pedestrian access. Of the remaining five we walked over three and drove over two.

I’ll write a little about each bridge, plus a photo of ours, and present a short video of the opening and closing of the tilting Millenium Bridge. Before this here’s a map of the bridges, courtesy of travelsinorbit [click to expand].

1 – Gateshead Millenium Bridge

Opened in June 2001, the tilting foot and cycle bridge is much admired for its elegance and engineering solution to allow ships to pass under it. Each opening and closing takes 4 and half minutes. Bridge lighting is white on weekdays, and in colour at weekends. It is self cleaning in that on each opening litter is collected in traps at each end of the bridge. We walked across to visit the Baltic Centre from its viewing deck to this photo.

2 – Tyne Bridge

Grade II* listed Tyne Bridge is the dominant symbol of Newcastle. It’s striking steel arch design is the largest single-span steel arch bridge on the British Isles. The supporting Art Deco towers are as impressive as the arch. Designer Sir Ralph Freeman used a similar design for Sydney Harbour Bridge. While we drove over the bridge, it’s popular  with pedestrians.

3 – Swing Bridge

This Grade II* bridge is my favourite of the seven bridges. Opened in 1876, at the time of construction it was the largest swing bridge ever built. Built to improve navigation and expand trade to the upper reaches of the river for larger vessels, it was designed and constructed by the Sir W.G. Armstrong company to allow ships to access its works and shipyard.

The original hydraulic mechanisms are still used to move the bridge today, although the pumps are now electrically powered rather than the original steam power. Once in frequent use, the bridge now opens around four times a week. Available for road and pedestrian traffic we walked across its twice.

4 – High Level Bridge

The Grade 1 listed High Level Bridge was constructed between 1846 to 49. It is a double deck structure of arch and suspension design. The upper railway deck is carried on 6 ribbed arches supported by stone piers; the road suspended from the arches by wrought iron rods.

Following a restoration in 2008 the roadway on the lower deck is now open for southbound (Newcastle to Gateshead) buses and taxis only, reducing the loads on the bridge. Pedestrians and cyclists still use the original footpaths at each side of the roadway.  We walked over the bridge from one side to the other, and enjoyed the views over the river. The photo above of the Swing Bridge was taken from the High Level Bridge

5 – Metro Bridge

Opened in 1981 by Queen Elizabeth II the steel truss Metro Bridge carries the Tyne and Wear Metro over the River Tyne. Either side of the river the Metro emerges from a tunnel. My photo, below, doesn’t show the the strong blue colour of the paint [see it in all it’s glory in the photo of the King Edward VII bridge below]. While not as attractive as the other bridges, its pleasing functional design provides variety in bridge design.

6 – King Edward VII Railway Bridge

Yet another of the listed bridges over the Tyne. The King Edward VII railway bridge is Grade II listed. It is a handsome bridge, with the bridge deck consisting of steel lattice girders of the double Warren truss type. Opened in 1906 by the then King, it carries four railway tracks of the East Coast main railway line over the river. This is not one of my photos. It’s from Wikipedia Commons.

7 – Redheugh Bridge

This is the bridge, carrying the A189 that we used to arrive in Newcastle upon Tyne.  Opened in 1983 by the Princess of Wales it is of pre-stressed concrete design. Notably with no structure above the deck it is vulnerable to high winds, and also gives the illusion of being the highest of the seven bridges. To my mind it’s the least attractive of the seven bridges, and not in keeping with the wonders of the other bridges. I guess likely money was the main issue. Again this photo is not mine. It’s from Wikipedia Commons.

Conclusion. Were I to rank the bridges, I would have the Swing Bridge as number 1, then the Tyne Bridge at 2, followed by the High Level Bridge at 3, Millenium Bridge at 4, Metro Bridge at 5, King Edward VII Bridge at 6, and lastly Redheugh Bridge at 7.

Plenty of visits still to tell you about

What with a visit to Winston Churchill’s home at Chartwell in Westerham, Kent, Quebec House, again in Westerham, the home of General Wolfe the victor of the 1759 Battle of Quebec, the Eel House on the River Arle in Arlesford, and the old fire station at Arlesford; the problem is finding time to tell you about them.

I promise to write up our visits, all of which have been thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening, and to be recommended.

We’ve more visits planned over the next few days, so my workload will be increased. Here are a few jumbled up photos for you to ponder which applies to which of our visits.

The Kings Cross area was our focus for Open House London

While we’re regular visitors to London, we’ve not seen the changes made to the Kings Cross area, so that was our focus for our Open House London visit on Saturday; as yesterday was cold and raining, not the day for traipsing round London, or queuing, such a contrast to Saturday’s glorious weather, our Saturday visit was all we accomplished this year.

Arriving at Kings Cross station, the new concourse roof impresses, and then it was the number of tall cranes associated with new buildings being built. I’m sure there were 10, perhaps more. The water in Granary Square in front of the University of the Arts is fun, and on a hot weekend day, attracted plenty of children dancing in between the water jets.

The highlight of the conversion of Coal Drops Yard into an imaginative retail and restaurant area is the ‘kissing point’ between the buildings. London being essentially a series of interlocking villages, Kings Cross area is set to become yet another.

Passing so many places to eat, for lunch we plumped for Barrafina, a Spanish tapas bar on the upper level in Coal Drops Yard. Sitting at the bar and watching the cooks is to be recommended.

Our main visit, in the Kings Cross area, was to the Aga Khan Centre, entry to which involved queuing, as is the case Open House buildings.

The Aga Khan Centre is a place of education, knowledge, cultural exchange and insight into Muslim civilisations. The building is the UK home for three organisations founded by His Highness Aga Khan IV, the hereditary spiritual leader of the Shi‘a Ismaili Muslims.

This building is designed to represent the values of openness, dialogue and respect for different viewpoints (pluralism). The architecture incorporates a collection of gardens, courtyards and terraces that provides an insight into the diversity and influence of Islamic landscape design around the world and through history.

The building is full of light, with wide glazing, heightened by the whiteness of the limestone facing. The guided tour included the terraces, and gardens. Opposite the building is the partially completed student accomodation. The take-away feeling is one of crispness, harmony, and peaceful place for learning. Here are our photos of the centre and Kings Cross area.

Delight at seeing an ancient hidden bridge in Arlesford

Travelling on the B3046 between Old Arlesford and New Alresford the road crosses a bridge you’d never know was there. It’s on a small stretch of road called The Soke that connects to Broad Street in Old Arlesford.

So what, you might reasonably say. To which I will say that this is, perhaps, the oldest bridge in Hampshire, and among such in England too, The bridge, known as The Soke Bridge, is a late 12th century stone single arched bridge, and is a scheduled ancient monument – see details in Historic England.

It was built around 1190 to span the overflow channel from Arlesford Pond leading into the River Arle. The gothic stone arch is 12th century. It’s parapet i1 17th century, and the brick arch is a later Victorian addition from when the road was widened in the 1800’s.

The bridge and pond were created by Godfrey de Lucy, Bishop of Winchester (1189-1204), as part of a scheme to make the River Itchen navigable from its source at Bramdean through Winchester and Southampton. Alresford Pond acted as a reservoir, in which the water of several local streams was collected to be channelled through the River Alre to the River Itchen.

The downstream face bridge, the Norman stone arch, is hidden and is only viewable from a private garden, and then on certain days in the year. We visited the bridge on a Heritage Open Day. Here are my photos of the bridge and a short video of it.

Ploughing match on previously unploughed ground

The annual ploughing match of the West End, Windlesham and District Agricultural and Horticultural Society [Ag & Hort from here on] on Sunday, 8th September, was held on new ground for the competition, which presented a challenge to the competitors, as the ground had not been previously ploughed, and some parts of the field, close to the A3, were heavily compacted.

We’ve attended the ploughing match for a number of years, seeing it held on land adjacent to Longacres in Bagshot, Manor Farm at Stoke D’Abernon, and this year on ground in Grove Heath Road in Ripley.

There’s always a goodly number of competitors, with tractors and ploughs old and new. The Ag and Hort organisers provide refreshments and a BBQ – the bacon rolls were particularly good.

At past matches we’ve attended I’ve interviewed some of the competitors and the judges, and have also taken a video or two. This year there’s no interviews, just a few photos and a short video.