Monday, May 16, 2011

Jacob's Ladder by Sheena Porter

You may recall that I rather fell in love with Bridgnorth last summer, spending more than four hours doing the town trail. I even went back late that evening to see the town's two churches. Yes, I had dined well, but they are remarkable. As I wrote at the time:
St Leonard's (medieval but practically rebuilt in the 19th century) is placed in something close to a cathedral close. Thomas Telford's St Mary Magdalene closes off a fine Georgian street - and was aligned North-South to achieve this.
I found the other day that I have had an old children's book set in the town sitting unread on my shelves all this time. Jacob's Ladder by Sheena Porter is set in "Castlebridge" but the town it is based upon is unmistakable:
They came to the bottom of the Cartway and turned towards the long flight of steps which led up again to High Town, but Nicola pulled out her purse with a flourish and turned back towards the cliff railway, where a thick cable on a wheel hauled one car up the track as the other car went down.

"I'll give you a special Sunday treat," she said grandly, and bought two tickets at the tiny booking office.

The empty car bounced and swayed a little as they stepped into it, and the attendant reluctantly closed the door after waiting hopefully for a little while for more passengers. they slid into movement and the second car detached itself from the station at the top of the cable and came to meet them. When they passed, the saw that it was empty. Business was bad on wintry Sundays.
Jacob's Ladder was published in 1963 and one point of interest is that it was illustrated by Victor Ambrus, who today makes the drawings for Channel 4's Time Team.

Sheena Porter, who lives in Ludlow, worked as a librarian who in Leicestershire and Shropshire. In the 1960s she published several notable books for children. Featuring children working out family problems whilst solving historical mysteries, they rather recall the work of William Mayne.

Let us pause a moment too to mourn our loss of innocence: a couple of years after Jacob's Ladder she was able to publish another book called The Knockers. Its setting in the Shrophire hills was very Malcolm Saville, but the scratchy relationships between the children certainly were not. The knockers, incidentally, were the spirits that the lead miners could hear in their workings under the Stiperstones.

Finally, I hope the quotation above will not put anyone off bidding for the Bridgnorth cliff railway.


mustard said...

Whats the story about? I know Jacob's Ladder is also the name of an old 'ladder' carved into the face of a cliff near the High Rock, across the river from Bridgnorth.

Jonathan Calder said...

I've not read it yet, but it seems to involve a tunnel under the river and a lost chapel.