Saturday, January 19, 2013

Haile Selassie in Craven Arms

A couple of days ago, while looking at Wistanstow Village Hall, I quoted from 'Reminiscences of Wistanstow' by Michael Coles. Here is another extract from that book:
In 1936 the Italians invaded Abyssinia and the Emperor Haile Selassie had to flee, He was given refuge by this country and one day whilst I was at Craven Arms railway station he arrived with his entourage to stay at Walcot Hall on the way to Lydbury North, which was a mansion owned by the Stephenson Ink people.
In stature, he was a small man, very swarthy and black-bearded, with striking features. His helmet had big white feathers on top and his military uniform was well-decorated with a sash and medals. How long he stayed locally I have no idea, but that is my memory of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Abyssinia, also known as the 'Lion Man'.
When I first visited Shropshire I imagined that Craven Arms would be a medieval town like Much Wenlock or Church Stretton. Not a bit of it. It is a Victorian town, named after a pre-existing hotel and built around a cattle market and railway junction, which has somehow always failed to thrive. My picture shows Craven Arms' derelict Temperance Hall.

At least when Haile Selassie saw it the railway station had refreshment rooms and was not the wasteland of bus shelters you see today. And maybe the Shropshire tourism people can use this story to bring Rastafarian tourists to the area.


crewegwyn said...

Ah, Craven Arms.

Home of a massive brick-built carriage shed just NW of the station. The purpose of which has never been clear to me.

BUT in the late 1950s/ early 1960s - long after any obvious purpose had gone - it retained trackwork, doors and was well maintained.

Because it was home to a Regional Control Train which - had the Russians chosen to launch a nuclear attack - would have shuttled the regional great and good to some obscure location to carry out whatever duties were still available to them.

Around 2003 there was an attempt to create a heritage centre of some sort at the Carriage Shed, but this appears to have folded.

Unknown said...

Hey this a good post,I hope in the future by using online bus reservation tourists will surely come here to visit this magnificent place regularly

Jonathan Calder said...

Have you been to Craven Arms?

Ludlow Lout said...

Looks like the end is nigh for the Temperance. A great loss to the Victorian history of the town.

The hotel roof is now wholly stripped off, the windows are all knocked out, and bulldozers are growling at the walls.

The Shropshire Star yesterday (Tues 26 Apr 2016) reported on proposals for the erection of 27 dwelling units on the site of the former Hotel. Is that over-development? Certainly sounds like a lot of dwellings for such a small plot of land. And what consideration for car parking?

According to the Star, development proposals were submitted by Neu Carbon Limited. The company has a Mr Timothy Claude Summerfield listed as sole director and shareholder. Summerfield lives in nearby Halford.

In a poorly-edited online article from 2003, the BBC identifies Summerfield as one of the "Trustees" of the Hotel, but doesn't explain the context. A Family Trust holding property assets, including the hotel, perhaps?

The property development company is leveraged by a £700,000 loan from Lendy Ltd, a peer-to-peer / cloud-sourced lender, via "nominee" company, Saving Stream Security Holding Ltd. The site is valued at £1,200,000 with a loan-to-value ratio of 58%.

According to the Particulars, the purpose of the initial loan is for "clearance of site and pursuance of full planning permission."

The lender adds that "When he [Summerfield] has gained full planning permission, Lendy Ltd will consider lending him the funds to complete the build as another loan."

Jonathan Calder said...

Many thanks for the information, Ludlow Lout.

I like the cut of your jib.

Unknown said...

My grandfather was John Dayman Coole, Stationmaster during the war and buried in Stokesay He was so proud to receive Haille Selassie at Craven Arms station.