Friday, August 31, 2018

Finding the Motte at Gumley

Gumley, I wrote, is historic and a little mysterious. So I went back there.
I found the Motte, which some say is an early Norman castle and others dismiss as a relic of 18th-century landscaping.

Either way, it is a low mound with trees growing on it. It is also home to badgers setts.

I felt that I had wandered into M.R. James's A Warning to the Curious, but if there were historical relics to be found there, I am sure the King of the Badgers had them long ago.

Having tired myself out exploring this landscape, I am not convinced that the Motte was constructed as part of the landscaping of the grounds of the vanished Gumley Hall.

The best views here are those from the high ground looking down the valleys. The Motte is at the end of a natural ridge halfway down the hillside.

My money's on the Normans.

And all the time I explored the war memorial and sight screen were just in sight - tantalising glimpses of authority and civilisation.

Labour lose control of Telford & Wrekin after one of their councillors joins the Lib Dems

Good news from Shropshire:
Labour has lost overall control of Telford and Wrekin Council as a former mayor's defected to the Liberal Democrats. 
Kevin Guy, who represents Woodside, says, although he supports his local Labour group, he can no longer support the national party and Jeremy Corbyn. ... 
His decision leaves Labour with 27 councillors - they are still the largest party but with no overall control out of a total of 54 seats.
Kevin Guy explained his action on Twitter earlier today:

Lord Bonkers foresaw the split in United for Change

This news in The Times this morning:
A new centre party preparing to launch next year has already lost its chief executive, who is now setting up a separate political organisation. 
United for Change, which promises an “alternative to the divisive and extremist politics we see at Westminster”, was founded by Simon Franks, an entrepreneur. His co-founder, Adam Knight, the former chief executive, has left with some of his staff and is running a new outfit.
will have come as no surprise to readers of Lord Bonkers' Diary.

In June the old brute met Freddie and Fiona at a street market in London:
"We’ve started a new political party," he tells me enthusiastically. "We’re going to unite the centre of British politics and win the next election." 
I ask who he expects will vote for them. "Oh, everybody. You know, sensible people. The sort of people who worked at Liberal Democrat HQ between 2010 and 2015." 
"And is Fiona a member too?" I ask. 
"She’s started her own centre party. Their stall is over there behind the falafels."

Thursday, August 30, 2018

"Let Worthington's Feed You": A forgotten Leicester grocery chain

When I came across this old sign above the door of a cafe in Aylestone, I assumed that it was a rather fanciful add for Worthington's beer.

But I was wrong, as a recent article in the Leicester Mercury by Jane Goddard showed.

It began:
We wonder how many of our readers recall Worthington’s Cash Stores, the local chain of grocery shops with their memorable slogan, “Let Worthington’s feed you”? 
By 1960, the company had 47 branches, the vast majority within Leicester, but also in the county, and in Coventry, Northampton, Nuneaton and Rugby. 
Founded by Charles T. Worthington in 1891, the first of many stores was at 18 Humberstone Road, Leicester.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Rediscovering the Bramley Line: March to Watlington via Wisbech

Another video in the Rediscovering Lost Railway series. This ones traces the line from March to Watlington via Wisbech, much of which is still in situ but decaying in the flat Fenland landscape.

We come across a rudimentary preservation group along the way, but there remains a campaign to reopen it as a commercial railway.

I posted an earlier video about this line in 2015.

David Boyle on curbing house price inflation

A piece of wisdom from my favourite Liberal Democrat thinker.

David Boyle writes on the Radix website:
Politicians of all parties have colluded in the idea that house price inflation has been caused by our failure to build enough homes. All the evidence suggests that it was actually too much money pumping into the housing market which caused the ruinous leaps that are excluding middle classes and working classes alike from home ownership. 
However many homes we build, we will not keep up with the almost infinite demand for housing investment from the Far East.
His remedy?
Follow New Zealand’s lead and exclude foreign buyers from the housing market. And quickly.
Read more about the New Zealand experience.

Sheffield’s first street tree festival will be held on 29 September

Anyone who has followed Sheffield's struggle against its council's determination to fell many of the city's street trees will be pleased to hear of this event.

Billed as "a multifaceted, joyful and thought-provoking celebration of the city’s beautiful street trees,." the first Sheffield Street Tree Festival will be held in Nether Edge, Sheffield, on Saturday 29 September.

The Festival website says:
Morning activities, including walks, birdwatching and painting, will take place on the streets. In the afternoon, we move to the magical Merlin Theatre in Meadow Bank Road for a fascinating programme of expert discussions, book readings, music, poetry, yoga and more! 
The festival will conclude with the presentation of the first schools’ copies of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, purchased through a crowdfunding campaign fronted by Vernon Oak, a 150-year-old oak  threatened with felling under Sheffield City Council’s Streets Ahead programme (full details of the crowdfunder here). 
This session will also include the performance and launch of ‘Heartwood’, a new spell-song by Robert Macfarlane written especially for Sheffield – a charm against harm for all trees everywhere threatened with unjust felling.
Read the full programme here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Council defers decision over test track at Bosworth Battlefield

From the Leicester Mercury this evening:
Councillors have voted by some distance (12-2) to defer making a decision on the track. 
They hope the big brains at Horiba can go away and come up with something the BOTH delivers their track and preserves the battlefield in its entirety. 
But Horiba have been pretty clear tonight there’s only one plan that can deliver the technical requirements the track demands. It was the one on the table and councillors just passed up the opportunity to approve it.
The planning authority for the area is Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Listen to what happens when a Brexiteer encounters someone who really understands the issues at stake

I have been retweeting this exchange every time I have come across it, so I may as well post it here.

The way that Jonathan Isaby, who has the manner at least of the privately educated Conservative journalist, is punctured by an encounter with someone who knows what he is talking about it so telling.

I particularly like the way his voice goes all high when he is losing the argument. It is hard not to be reminded of a 13-year-old being told off for having an untidy bedroom

Of course, I was following Jason Hunter before it was fashionable. I also remember having a falling out with Isaby in the glory years of blogging, though the details escape me.

Nottingham panel discussion on "Brexit - What Next?"

The European Movement is holding  a free 'Question Time' event in Nottingham city centre on the evening of 28 September.

On the panel will be:

Ken Clarke MP
Anna Soubry MP
Chris Leslie MP
Tom Brake MP
Femi Oluwole - Our Future Our Choice
Eloise Todd - Best for Britain

The moderator will be John Hess, the former BBC East Midlands political editor.

You can apply for tickets via the European Movement Leicestershire site.

The event will take place at the Nottingham Conference Centre, 30 Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BU (6.30-9.30pm).

Write a guest post for Liberal England

I welcome guest posts on Liberal England.

As you can see from this list of the 10 most recent ones, I am happy to consider a wide range of subjects.

If you would like to write a guest post yourself, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

"Teas in the Church", Saddington

I took this a couple of weeks ago. There is something pleasing about the light.

Six of the Best 814

Jennifer Williams argues that we should fear the constant political attacks on journalists and journalism.

"I do have one dream. It is that the two parts of Ireland will come together slowly, with an increasing number of Northern unionists realising that a much closer association with the Republic makes huge sense for reasons of economic self-interest." Andy Pollak suggests ways of making it a reality.

"Leonard Pozner ... spends hours every day trying to erase online conspiracy theories that the death of his 6-year-old son Noah at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax." Sapna Maheshwari and John Herrman find that WordPress are the most resistant to demands to take these theories down.

Lucy Williams and Barry Godfrey look at the life of Adela Pankhurst, the forgotten sister who doesn’t fit neatly into suffragette history.

Did you know that Terry Venables used to co-write crime novels? fullybooked2017 looks at the output of P.B. Yuill.

Curious British Telly presents a list of 42 lesser-known children's television shows.

Strangelove: Elin's Photograph

I try not to revisit an artist too soon, but as I find it is more than a decade since I chose something by my favourite forgotten Nineties band I think this will be OK.

Elin's Photograph comes from Strangelove's second album, Love and Other Demons, which was released in 1996.

You can read the band's history in a britpopnews article and listen to the title track from their first LP elsewhere on this blog.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Car testing track set to be built on part of Bosworth Battlefield

There was alarming news from the Leicester Mercury earlier this week:
Councillors are set to approve the development of a £26million Leicestershire testing track for driverless cars. 
Mira Technology Park wants to build the facility on 83 acres of land next to its existing vehicle testing centre at Higham-on-the-Hill near Hinckley, partially within the registered Bosworth Battlefield site. 
Heritage watchdog Historic England says it fears the scheme could cause some harm to the battlefield where Richard III lost his crown and life in 1485.
The track is government funded and planning officers at Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council have recommended that the application be approved.

There is some local controversy, according to the Mercury, over the road access to the track, but that is all.

Is a historic battlefield really the only place it can be built? You can sign a petition against the development.

Is Vince Cable planning an early resignation as Lib Dem leader?

Embed from Getty Images

I have no idea, but Adam Payne and Ben Gartside wrote this afternoon on Business Insider:
Sir Vince Cable is set to give a major speech on Friday, September 7, multiple sources have told Business Insider, amid speculation that he planning an early resignation as leader of the Liberal Democrats. 
Senior sources have told BI that Lib Dem members will be invited to a speech in the first week of September, one week before the party's autumn conference, in which Cable will make announcements about reforms and the party's future. 
Two senior sources — a well-placed Lib Dem and a party grandee — suggested that the MP for Twickenham will reveal his plan to make way for a successor before the next scheduled general election in 2022. 
The well-placed source claimed his departure could come as early as the party's spring conference in March.
This sounds to me like an attempt to create a sense of urgency around the changes to the party constitution that journalists have been briefed about all summer.

Those changes would scrap the rule that the party leader has to be an MP and see people who are not members allowed to vote in party elections.

The changes are nowhere to be found in the agenda for next month's Lib Dem Conference, hence perhaps the enthusiasm for holding a special conference to discuss the rules for choosing Vince's successor.

We do, of course, have a perfectly good set of rules for doing just that already in place, but maybe the plan is to bounce the party into supporting Vince's pet proposals.

Friday, August 24, 2018

How the Royal Implement Works became The House of Pain

I was taken with this brick building on the main road in North Kilworth, and a helpful web page explains its history:
The Ball family has worked in the village for nearly two centuries and in the 19th century set up the Royal Implement Works. This was a hive of industry employing over 50 people making carriages, carts, wagons, specialist vans and agricultural implements. Many of their goods went to the Royal estates at Sandringham and Windsor. 
That doesn't explain the sign for The House of Pain though.

Six of the Best 813

"You need to comprehend how opposition to Corbyn has fractured into four groups: the Stay and Fighters; the Conscientious Objectors; the Brexit Firsters and the Policy Platformers." Stephen Bush, concludes that a Labour split is inevitable.

Meanwhile, John Rentoul argues that the Labour leader ran a brilliant campaign last year but won't be able to repeat it.

Let's blow up all the hospitals, says Kim Bellard.

Tanvi Misra on the renaissance of adventure playgrounds: "Trying to build a playground with the goal of removing uncertainty altogether is not only futile, it’s also counterproductive, and removes the potential for teaching kids skills they’ll need to navigate the real world."

Stunning photographs of the Faroe Islands from Chris Hall.

Nicholas Whyte takes us to Wroxeter in Shropshire - the buried Roman city of Uriconium. "All slightly eerie, but very fascinating. Recommended, if you are in that part of England."

Duck loses its deposit in the Gotham by-election

From the BBC report of yesterday's council by-election at Gotham in Nottinghamshire:
Before the counting took place last night at the Gotham Memorial Village Hall, the returning officer announced a duck had visited one of the polling stations that day and "defecated on the floor".

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Talking Pictures TV is showing Fragment of Fear (1970) on Monday

Talking Pictures TV, my favourite channel, is showing this 1970 paranoid thriller starring David Hemmings on Bank Holiday Monday at 9pm.

Matthew Engel revisits the d'Oliveira Affair

Embed from Getty Images

The story of how Basil d'Oliveira was omitted from the England party to tour South Africa in 1967/8 after scoring 158 in the last test of the summer, apparently because the Apartheid government would object to his selection, has been told many times.

As Matthew Engel writes for the Guardian Sportsblog today:
It is impossible to know what happened in that selection meeting; everyone in the room is now dead. Was the chairman, Doug Insole, being honest when he said tortuously: "I think we have got better players"? Some cricket writers thought so. 
But Arlott, by now the Guardian correspondent, snorted: "No one of open mind will believe that he was left out for valid cricket reasons."
Engel revisits this 50-year-old controversy because he has a new theory to share:
No, there is another explanation, rarely spoken out loud. The clue lay in another omission from that squad: the rumbustious opening bat, Colin "Ollie" Milburn. In the fallout that followed D’Oliveira’s omission, hardly anyone noticed that Milburn had been displaced by the far less gifted [Roger] Prideaux. 
Only a few months earlier, England had been in West Indies, another alcoholic tour. Ollie was master of the revels. Dolly – a teetotaller until he came to England – was a regular accomplice. This was noted in managerial reports. Perhaps the selectors feared him being sloshed in South Africa, where government agents would have lurked, offering not honey-traps but beer-traps. A drunken Dolly in the cells would have made Vorster’s year. 
I am confident events in the Caribbean were at the heart of the secret. One selector confirmed this to me many years later. He may have been lying, to cover up something worse, but I don’t think so.
His theory certainly could be true. I have blogged myself about English cricket's relationship with drink, and you can imagine the English cricket authorities having a fit of morality and acting like a new housemaster determined to stamp out beastliness in the senior dorm.

But I suspect the reason for d'Oliveira's omission was a fear of how South Africa would react if he were selected. He was left out to save the tour.

This need not have been the result of a deep conspiracy, as Engel suggests. It could have just arisen from decent but unimaginative men trying to protect the game that had been their lives.

And the fact that all theories, including Engel's struggle to account for, is that when Tom Cartwright, a seam bowler, withdrew through injury, it was d'Oliveira (very much a batsman who bowled) who was called up in his place, leading the the cancellation of the tour.

Looking for Welford and Kilworth Station

By Lamberhurst [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Between North Kilworth Wharf and the village there used to be a railway station. Welford and Kilworth stood where the Market Harborough to Rugby line crossed the main road.

When I went to look for it on Saturday I had a feeling that there had been a lot of the station left to see years after its closure in 1966. 

By chance I met an old friend this week, and he recalled photographing its remains in the late 1980s, when you could still see the concrete lampposts that appear in the picture above.

You can find the station site easily enough today as the trackbed on either side of the old level crossing is still in use as a private road.

I though I was being fanciful in hoping the building in the photograph below was left over from the station's goods yard, but in fact it is.

You can see its distinctive roof in the background of the photograph of the station above.

On my shelves I found a copy of Recollections of Country Station Life by Harry Aland, who worked at Welford and Kilworth for many years.

He writes:
Mr Double, the Station Master, was another enthusiastic gardener and his private garden was a show-piece. He used to grow large quantities of tomatoes in the open, with corrugated zinc sheets behind the plants to trap the sun. He had wonderful crops and was able to sell some to the staff, as well as to the drivers and firemen.
And inside the slim book I found a review I had clipped from the Harborough Mail in 1981, which shows traffic waiting at the station level crossing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Alastair Campbell to give the Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture

Embed from Getty Images

How times change! This year's annual Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture will be given by the former Labour director of communications Alastair Campbell.

The lecture will take place, reports the BBC, the fifth Lochaber Ideas Week.

With the advent of Jeremy Corbyn and the fading of memories of the controversy over the Iraq War, Campbell does not seem such an odd choice today.

Liberal Democrats may also feel a degree of identification with another of the week's guest lecturers, Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards.

Northampton had a university in the 13th century

Yesterday I blogged about the way the dominance of Oxford and Cambridge was enforced. Between 1334 and 1827, their graduates had to swear an oath - the Oath of Stamford - not to teach anywhere else.

By one of those odd coincidences, a Guardian article that morning had begun:
Thanks to sour grapes and special pleading by scholars at the University of Oxford, in 1265 Northampton’s university was dissolved by King Henry III.
Sure enough there is a Wikipedia article on University of Northampton (13th century):
The University of Northampton was founded in the reign of King Richard I (the ‘Lion-heart’) as a school. Richard patronised the institution and, according to at least one historian, between 1176 and 1193 the school at Northampton "rivalled or even eclipsed the Oxford schools". 
The school lost a powerful supporter with the death of King Richard. However, it still enjoyed the patronage of Simon de Montfort through the reign of King John and his son Henry III. ... 
In 1261 Henry III was requested to give, and granted, permission for the settlement of a university in the town.
The existence of the University was brief. Four years after it was established, during the siege of Northampton, the scholars resisted the entry of the King’s forces, which resulted in Henry III revoking the town’s licence to have a University.
The article goes on to mention the alternative explanation for its demise given by the Guardian author.

I have been guilty of the past of underestimating Northampton and this story emphasises what an important town it was in the Middle Ages.

It's original university, of course, flourished at too early a date to be affected by the Oath of Stamford.

Fight at swingers party after woman helps man put on a sock

Congratulations to Metro, winner of our Headline of the Day Award.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

"The Stamford Oath": How Oxbridge's dominance was maintained

It's not just that Oxford and Cambridge are the dominant English universities: until surprisingly recently they were the only English universities.

The third English university, Durham, was not established until 1832 and even at the the end of the 19th century there were only three more: Kings' College and University College in London and Victoria University, which became the University of Manchester.

As an article in History Today by William Whyte says:
This was in sharp contrast to the European experience. Just as Oxford and Cambridge were establishing and policing their unique right to produce graduates, ever growing numbers of universities were being founded across the Continent. In the 14th century new institutions appeared in towns from Pisa to Prague; from Kraków to Cahors.  
In the years that followed, the gap in numbers between English universities and those on the Continent grew even greater, with over 100 founded or refounded in Europe after 1500. Oxford and Cambridge remained the only universities in England. Indeed, even as Morton’s teaching career began in the mid-17th century, universities were springing up in such unlikely places as the small towns of Prešov in Slovakia and Nijmegen in the Netherlands.  
The English experience was also very unlike that of the Scots, who acquired five universities between 1451, when Glasgow opened, and 1582, when Edinburgh was established.
And this Oxbridge duopoly in England was rigidly enforced. From 1334 until 1827 the graduates of the two universities had to swear an oath not to teach anywhere else.

I have mentioned this oath before in my post on the legend of Stamford University, but it turns out that it did not just apply to Stamford.

The Stamford Oath, as it was known, obliged graduates of Oxford and Cambridge not to give lectures outside those universities.

You could argue that we are still struggling with the effect of this enforced Oxbridge dominance today.

Hitler's first raid on Leicester was 78 years ago today

The first German bombs of World War II to land on Leicester fell 78 years ago today.

Jo Vigor-Mungovin sent this tweet earlier today with photographs of the damage and one of the victims.

I blogged about this raid recently after looking for the birthplace of C.P. Snow. On that walk I found that Saffron Hill Road still exists, but only just.

Monday, August 20, 2018

North Kilworth and the landscape of middle-class affluence

When I blogged about the Erewash Canal at Long Eaton, I said I looked for shabby charm on the canals.

There is still some of that on the Grand Union at North Kilworth, but it is already dominated by the new marina that is being constructed there.

Like a modern golf course, this is the contrived landscape of middle-class affluence.

Such developments are inevitable given the popularity of canal cruising today, but they are hard to love. Perhaps it will look better when it is finished and hosting hundreds of boats.

My perceptions must be warped by having had childhood canal holidays in the days when they were still unusual and rather adventurous.

I remember this Leicester Line of the Grand Union in 1971 - my last middle-class summer for many years. It was choked with weed and my father had to stop the boat every few miles to free the propeller.

Later my stepfather was to moor his boat at North Kilworth, though I don't think I ever visited him there.

I had a chat with the woman in the office at the wharf there and played with the dog until it decided it had won the game and held on to the ball.

Is there a complex set of rules they play to which we have never worked out?


The Feathers in Ludlow has closed

Sad but not unexpected news from the Ludlow Advertiser:
One of the most iconic landmarks in Ludlow has closed with the loss of 16 jobs. 
The Feathers Hotel in Ludlow has closed its doors after going into administration. 
It is hoped that a buyer can be found and that the building can reopen again at some point as a hotel. 
Ongoing trading difficulties as the result of a legionnaires outbreak in 2017, meant that it was no longer viable for the business to remain open. The Company entered administration on Thursday, August 2.
The Feathers, with its spectacular half-timbering, is certainly is one of the town's most striking buildings. When I arranged to meet a friend there once I felt like I was in the opening chapter of an interwar thriller.

Conservative-run Northamptonshire splashed out on luxuries as its finances collapsed

Rushton Hall

Sarah Ward reports in the Northamptonshire Telegraph:
Northamptonshire County Council spent huge sums on corporate hospitality, string quartets and lavish events as it was heading towards its financial crisis. 
During 2015 when the state of the finances was becoming increasingly serious, the authority paid for a number of luxuries including £2,700 on a heritage dinner at Rushton Hall, £3,624 on a flypast at the Grafton Underwood memorial event and £4,500 on a marquee for an occasion at Boughton House, Kettering. 
It also spent £80,000 with Northampton Saints rugby club, which included the cost of a stadium hospitality box. 
The payments were made through NCC-owned company NEA Properties, which an internal council investigation has found had ‘minimal’ governance and documentation.
She goes on to explain that the money came from the sale of property to the University of Northampton. The bulk of the proceeds was returned to the council, but £120,000 was retained by NEA Properties.

The report quotes the Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Stanbra:
"There is some serious explaining that needs to be done here.
"I knew the company existed but I made the assumption that it was managing the resources properly and that all funds were coming back to the county council. 
"I certainly didn’t think they were spending money on hospitality boxes and on fly pasts at Grafton Underwood. 
"The money should not have spent on these things and of course I expect that minutes of the company meetings would have been taken and properly documented. 
"It is public money at the end of the day and it is completely wrong."

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Dr Smith meets The Master

One for the teenagers here as two television science fiction icons meet in a 1964 episode of The Third Man.

First we see Jonathan Harris who a year later began to play Dr Smith in Lost in Space. He and his rather camp enmity with the ship's robot were the high point of the show.

The two of them were certainly more interesting than the terminally dull Robinson family (even if one of them had been in The Sound of Music).

Then we find that the man Harry Lime has sent him to meet is played by Roger Delgado, the original and best Master in Doctor Who.

My Doctor was Jon Pertwee, but it was Delgado and Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier who went a long way to making those years special.

The Shropshire Star marks the 60th anniversary of the Longmynd Adventure Camp

The Shropshire Star has an article on the Longmynd Adventure Camp, which is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its foundation this year:
The young lads from underprivileged backgrounds in Wolverhampton, Birmingham, and the Black Country, had never seen anything like it. 
Plonked in tents in the shadow of the Long Mynd, they washed in a brook, sang round a camp fire, roamed the countryside, played games, and generally enjoyed the fresh air.
I blogged about the camp back in 2010, when I exclaimed over how remarkable it was to find such an establishment just down the lane from the real-life models for Malcolm Saville's Witchend and Ingles Farm.

Writing this has reminded me that when I first discovered The Bog Visitor Centre on the other side of the hill there were still wooden tents in its yard, left over from the days when it had been some sort of outdoor activity centre.

And a letter from a former helper at the Longmynd Camp, quoted in the Shropshire Star, is unexpectedly moving:
"Dear Sir, As you can see by the above address [Her Majesty's Prison, The Dana, Shrewsbury] things have changed for me since our last meeting... I will always remember all the great songs we sang, especially your daughter Debbie's favourite, 'There's A Worm At The Bottom of the Garden.' Brilliant! ...
"I am sorry for letting you down Mr Williams."